Crowd outside Supreme Court rallies against federal contraceptive mandate

IMAGE: CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters

By Kurt Jensen

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the end,
the women religious decided it would be good to sing after all.

That wasn’t on the agenda for
the sunny 90-minute rally in front of the Supreme Court March 23 in support of
the plaintiffs in Zubik v. Burwell. But it had a calming effect, so it seemed
like the right thing to do.

There were several spontaneous
renditions of “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” “God Bless America”
and “God Bless the USA” from the Little Sisters of the Poor and
groups of Dominican and Carmelite sisters.

And at the end of the rally,
Mother Regina Marie Gorman of the Carmelite Sisters of Los Angeles, who
delivered the closing prayer, decided, with a big smile, that it would be apt
for for all the Catholics to chant the Marian antiphon “Salve Regina,”
traditionally sung after evening prayers.

It was a serene conclusion to an
orderly rally punctuated with chants of “Let them serve!” as the
court heard oral arguments in the case brought by several Catholic and other
faith-based entities against the federal government’s requirement that most
employers, including religious employers, cover contraceptives for their

The Denver-based Little Sisters,
who operate nursing homes for the elderly poor, and 36 other groups are
contesting the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. With the death of
Justice Antonin Scalia, the case has an uncertain future with the possibility
of a 4-4 court deadlock, which means the rulings of the circuit courts, all but
one of which have gone against the plaintiffs, will be upheld.

The Department of Health and
Human Services has offered an “accommodation,” also known as a “work-around,”
that allows objecting employers to acknowledge their opposition to
contraceptive coverage by notifying HHS in a letter. This allows a third party
to provide the coverage. The Little Sisters and other plaintiffs object to
that, calling it a burden on their free exercise of religion, because they are
still involved in allowing coverage they find objectionable.

“Today the Little Sisters
make their last stand,” said Mother Mary Assumpta Long of the Dominican
Sisters of Mary in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“Filling out a piece of
paper is not the issue. Complicity is wrong and it is wrong in itself, and the
government cannot make this otherwise.”

“The Supreme Court,”
she continued, “is no the arbiter of sacred Scriptures.”

“Our request is not
uniquely Catholic or religious. It’s American,” said Elise Italiano,
executive director of communications for The Catholic University of America, another

On March 2, a rally of more than
3,000 participants surrounded and attempted to drown out a pro-life rally of
about 200 during oral arguments on a Texas abortion law. This time, the
proportions were reversed.

A competing rally organized by
the National Women’s Law Center, the American Humanist Association and
Catholics for Choice, among other groups, had many fewer participants than the
several hundred who turned out in support of the Little Sisters and the other
plaintiffs, including Oklahoma Wesleyan University, East Texas Baptist
University, Southern Nazarene University and Geneva College, a Presbyterian
institution, and the Archdiocese of Washington, the dioceses of Pittsburgh and
Erie, Pennsylvania and Priests for Life.

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