Big Brother vs. Little Sisters

February 27, 2014

Why aren’t more people outraged over the Obama administration’s war on religious liberty?

The administration insists on coercing full compliance with the Obamacare mandates, even when 99.9 percent compliance would fully serve its purposes, and chooses to impose its iron will even against American citizens’ God-given and constitutionally and statutorily protected religious freedoms.

Despite straight-facedly promising that he would protect the religious liberties of people and groups and would not violate their conscience rights by forcing them to provide or support contraceptive or abortion services, President Obama has vigorously engaged in a scorched-earth campaign to do just the opposite.

It’s not enough that Obama has imposed a mandate on a formerly free America to compel people to purchase health insurance under his woefully inferior new health care scheme. He is insistent on gratuitously forcing it on those whose faith-driven consciences object to the mandate, even when exempting them surely wouldn’t impair the workings of his already chaotic law.

This president doles out exemptions like candy for his friends and supporters when he has absolutely no legal authority to do so. But when he is legally required to exempt people (on religious liberty grounds), he refuses. What’s the common denominator here? Obama gets his way and the law be damned — period! The will of the people matters — if Obama says it does and not if he doesn’t.

You would think Obama would have better things to do than pick a fight with innocent, well-meaning faith-oriented people who simply want the government not to force them to do things that would genuinely violate their consciences. He and his legal honchos have already lost 18 out of 19 cases related to this, including against the owners of Hobby Lobby. Isn’t it ironic that one of the litigants opposing him — the only one to lose its bid for injunctive relief so far — is the University of Notre Dame, the very school at which he made his assurance that he would respect our conscience rights?

The latest chapter in this outrage involves the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Maryland-based order of nuns to whom Obama refuses to grant an exemption from his bullying health care statute. The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily granted an injunction to prevent the government from forcing the mandate or imposing a fine on the Little Sisters, but the case on the merits is pending before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Little Sisters’ mission is to care for the elderly poor. The nuns work hand in hand with the Christian Brothers Services and other Catholic nonprofit groups to provide employee benefits that are consistent with their faith. Their faith unambiguously forbids them to participate in Big Brother Barack’s program to distribute, subsidize and promote the use of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices. But Big Brother wholly disrespects their religious liberties and is pushing all the way to the Supreme Court, presumably to make a point that no one defies Big Brother, whether or not it hurts Big Brother’s cause. Big Brother is seeking to force the Little Sisters to execute and deliver his mandatory contraceptive coverage form, EBSA Form 700. If the sisters refuse, Big Brother says he’s going to come down hard and impose severe financial penalties.

Big Brother, preposterously, insists that he has not burdened the Little Sisters, because he can’t use the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to force third parties (in this case, the administrators of the church plan through which the nuns provide benefits) to act on the Little Sisters’ EBSA Form 700. Big Brother is actually arguing that because ERISA lacks enforcement authority against others, the Little Sisters’ religious rights are not in jeopardy here. Do you see my point? If it doesn’t matter, then why is Big Brother insisting on it? Just because he can? To throw around his authority? To put his Little Sisters in their place?

But in fact, the Little Sisters’ religious liberties would be violated by the group’s signing the form, because that would, in the group’s attorneys’ words, “designate, authorize, incentivize, and obligate administrators to provide coverage” and would essentially rewrite “the Little Sisters’ religious beliefs for them.” Of course the nuns’ moral standards don’t allow them to get around their consciences by playing the game of having some other entity technically perform the services. Those with religion-based moral standards would not have to have this principle explained to them. This may be a news flash to the obtuse, but the Little Sisters are not going to take their moral cues from Big Brother and are not going to adjust their religious beliefs to bring them into compliance with what Big Brother says they ought to be (as if he were the pope), as opposed to what they actually are.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act prohibits the government from “substantially burdening” one’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates it has a compelling governmental interest to do so and it is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.

Amoral Big Brother would have us believe that he has a compelling government interest in forcing a faith-based group to violate its religious conscience by signing a form to enable the provision of no-cost access to abortion-inducing drugs and devices, sterilizations, and all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives.

You got it: This government has no interest in reducing our crippling national debt but has a compelling interest in forcing nuns to support abortion and contraception.