By Greg Scott
Several religious non-profit organizations — including Christian colleges, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Priests for Life — filed their opening briefs last Monday with the US Supreme Court in a highly-anticipated challenge to the Obama administration’s abortion-pill mandate and the sham “accommodation” it offers religious non-profits.
The Department of Health and Human Services mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception through their health plans under threat of heavy penalties. Alliance Defending Freedom clients Geneva College in Pennsylvania and four universities in Oklahoma — Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Mid-America Christian University — specifically object to providing abortifacients.
So what distinguishes this case from the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Wood Specialties victory against the abortion-pill mandate at the Supreme Court in 2014?
While that case addressed the mandate as it applies to for-profit family-run businesses, this case pertains to the mandate as applied to non-profit religious organizations. SCOTUS will hear it in late March and decide by the end of the term in June.
Although the administration argues that executing and submitting a so-called “accommodation” form insulates religious nonprofits from providing abortifacients, that is not the case.
The form directly involves the Christian colleges and other religious groups in providing abortifacients in multiple ways by, for example:
1. Altering their health plans to allow for the provision of such drugs or devices
2. Requiring them to notify or identify to the government who their insurers or third-party administrators (TPA) are so that they can provide the drugs or devices on the colleges’ behalf
3. Officially authorizing their TPA as a plan and claims administrator solely for the purpose of providing the items
4. requiring them to identify and contract with a TPA that is willing to provide the drugs and devices to which they religiously object
Do I really need to tell anyone that it’s best not to believe New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse about what’s at stake in this case? Her take — fairly representative of the leftist consensus on this — is that stopping the government from forcing elderly nuns and a pro-life group of Catholic priests to provide contraception and abortion-inducing drugs would “carve a gaping hole in the fabric of civil society.” This claim is hysterical, either way you think about that word, and dishonest. Interesting that the headline of this most recent “nuns must provide IUDs or we’ve lost the republic” piece would include the phrase “moment of truth.” Greenhouse’s earlier column on these cases didn’t even take a moment to tell the truth.
National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru lays it out:
Greenhouse simply misstates what the administration is doing. She writes:
There is no chance — none — that the Little Sisters will ever have to have anything whatsoever to do with birth control. All the government is asking the order to do is sign the standard one-page form that sets the exemption machinery in motion. Here is the language:
“I certify that, on account, of religious objections, the organization opposes providing coverage for some or all of any contraceptive services that would otherwise be required to be covered; the organization is organized and operates as a nonprofit entity; and the organization holds itself out as a religious organization.”
That’s it. There is no government investigation of the merits of the religious claim — or of the unfounded belief that some of the contraceptives to which the nuns object can actually terminate what the medical profession regards as an existing pregnancy.
No, that is not “it.” The form has two pages, not one, and it’s the language on the other page to which the nuns object. Page 2 declares that the form is the “instrument” that becomes part of the nuns’ health plan and triggers the requirement that a third-party administrator provide contraceptive coverage.
So either Greenhouse didn’t know about the second page, which would disqualify her opinion, or she doesn’t want her readers to know that, like her fellow travelers, she believes that people should be bullied by the government to participate in morally-offensive acts or be destroyed by said government. “Forgetting to mention” the second page, which triggers complicity, just might have been what “had to be done” to make the naked coercion a little warmer and fuzzier.
As last Monday’s brief explains, the government’s coercion of the non-profits “can be explained only by its refusal to credit their sincere religious beliefs that the role the government wants them to play would be a sin. The government is certainly free to disagree with that belief, but it is not free to disregard it. Yet that is precisely what its regulatory scheme does – and precisely what RFRA [the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act] forbids.”
Hopefully the Supreme Court will “carve a gaping hole” in the government’s argument and leave the Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life, and Christian colleges alone to accomplish their religiously-inspired missions without being forced to be the state’s abortion-drug mules.
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