Some members of the Little Sisters of the Poor Congregation in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington Some members of the Little Sisters of the Poor Congregation in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington 

U.S. Bishops welcome Supreme Court ruling on religious liberty

Two USCCB committee chairmen applaud a US Supreme Court ruling in favour of the Little Sisters of the Poor in a long-running dispute over a contraception mandate.

By Vatican News

The Bishop chairmen of two committees of the U.S Bishops’ Conference issued a statement on Wednesday welcoming a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving the religious liberty of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a charitable order of nuns.

By a 7 – 2 vote, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday to allow religious exemptions under the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirement that employers must provide insurance coverage that includes certain forms of contraceptives.

The case, led by the Little Sisters of the Poor, arose when the religious congregation failed to obtain an exemption from the mandate on grounds of religious or moral objection. On 5 May, the Supreme Court had previously heard oral arguments on this case via telephone due to health restrictions caused by the Covid-19 crisis. 

In the USCCB statement, the chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami; and chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, said the Supreme Court has recognized the nuns’ right to religious freedom to “defend their community against attempts to force Catholic religious to cooperate with immoral activities.”

“Contraception is not health care,” the Bishops stated. “The government should never have mandated that employers provide it in the first place.”

An avoidable situation

Insisting that “this is a saga that did not need to occur,” the Bishops noted that there have been “multiple opportunities” for government officials to exempt conscientious objectors. They pointed out that even after the federal government expanded religious exemptions to the Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate, some states “chose to continue this attack on conscience.”

“Time after time, administrators and attorneys refused to respect the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the Catholic faith they exemplify, to operate in accordance with the truth about sex and the human person,” the Bishops said.

A welcome ruling

Applauding the ruling, Archbishops Wenski and Naumann praised the Little Sisters of the Poor, saying that it is an international congregation that is “committed to building a culture of life.”

“They care for the poor. They uphold human dignity. They follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church,” the Bishops added.

“The government has no right to force a religious order to cooperate with evil,” the Bishops insisted, hoping that Wednesday’s ruling “brings a close to this episode of government discrimination against people of faith.” At the same time, the Bishops reaffirm their resolve to “continue to be vigilant for religious freedom.”

09 July 2020, 10:24