On Tuesday, a Denver-based federal appeals court rejected a complaint from a group of Roman Catholic nuns, who run several nursing homes, that the federal mandate of providing contraception coverage to their employees under the Affordable Health Care Act infringes their religious freedom.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals argued that the Little Sisters of the Poor can opt out of paying an insurer to provide contraception coverage, so the mandate does not represent a substantial burden to their religious beliefs.
But the nuns argued that an Obamacare provision forces them to go through some bureaucratic hurdles and give their written permission to a third party to take care of the coverage. The group says that that makes them “complicit” in authorizing birth control, which is considered a sin by Christians including Roman-Catholics.
Under the Obama Health Law, employers must also provide coverage for sterilization and contraception to their female employees. But there’s an exemption for religious groups and abortion opponents. They can decline to pay for the services, but an insurer or other company will pick up the task.
Nevertheless, the Little Sisters of the Poor argued that signing the paperwork needed to exempt them from the birth control mandate and allow a third party to provide contraception coverage instead was trampling their rights stated in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Judge Scott M. Matheson Jr., however, disagreed. He argued that the nuns’ opting-out was not the ‘trigger’ to contraceptive coverage; the federal law was. So, the nuns are relieved from complicity as soon as they sign the papers, the judge ruled.
Judge Matheson also noted that Congress created the possibility of mandatory contraceptive coverage despite employers’ refusal. He also said that handing off coverage to somebody else was as easy as “filing a simple tax form or registering to vote.”
However, the nuns’ attorneys argued that the current ruling is at odds with last year’s Supreme Court ruling that had exempted the nuns from the birth control mandate.
Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, the spiritual leader of the nuns, said that the decision forced them to choose between their care for the elderly poor and their faith, which they could simply not do.
She also said that the group has taken care of the poor “with love and dignity” for more than 175 years. So, the group just wants to continue their charitable work without any “government intrusion.”
Image Source: The Atlantic