By Kurt Jensen
(CNS) — On the eve of the March 23 oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Zubik
v. Burwell, best known as the Little Sisters of the Poor case, two plaintiffs
appealed the case in the court of public opinion, and hinted that a political
solution might be their ultimate redress.
J. Muise, a co-founder and senior counsel of the American Freedom Law Center,
which represents Priests for Life, called the contraceptive mandate of the
Affordable Care Act “clearly a case of material cooperation with
evil,” but conceded that the court may not rule in favor of the women
religious and 36 other plaintiffs.
that occurs, then it will be up to the election of a pro-life president — Muise
didn’t mention any candidates — who could end the mandate through either
executive action or by extending an exemption for nonprofit organizations who
object to the mandate on religious grounds. Churches already have the
said Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, “the
solution is the elections and moving the elections in the right way.”
made their remarks March 22 during an afternoon news conference at the National
contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act requires most employers,
including religious employers, to cover contraceptives, sterilization and
abortifacients through their employee health insurance.
Department of Health and Human Services has offered what it calls an
“accommodation” or “work-around” that allows objecting employers to acknowledge
their opposition to contraceptive coverage by notifying HHS in a letter. This
triggers an arrangement for a third party to provide the coverage.
for Life and the other defendants regard that process as a burden on the free
exercise of religion.
faith, Catholic priests, Catholic objection, but the government is dividing us
on the basis of what? Classification under the tax code,” Father Pavone said.
Quincy Masteller, general counsel for Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula,
California, complained that the government has drawn the religious exemption
“more narrowly than ever before,” defining it as simply the right to
worship without government interference. The Catholic college faces fines of up
to $2.8 million a year if it does not comply with the mandate.
is not about what we do in church on Sunday,” Father Pavone said.
“It’s also to be free in what we do in business every other day of the
appellants include East Texas Baptist University, Southern Nazarene University
and Geneva College, a Presbyterian institution, and the Archdiocese of
Washington, and the dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie, Pennsylvania.
cite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 in their defense.
as the law is called, states that the government “shall not substantially
burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least
restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest.
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