With a new contraception controversy pending at the Supreme Court, some in conservative media have suggested the Obama administration is going after a group of nuns. In an interesting twist, that’s largely the opposite of what’s happened.
As we discussed last week, a Colorado group of nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, wants to provide health care coverage to its non-profit group’s employees, but doesn’t want to cover contraception. No problem, the Obama administration says, telling the group that it can simply fill out some paperwork noting a religious objection, at which point a private insurance company can create a separate policy for workers who want access to birth control. The non-profit group wouldn’t be involved, wouldn’t condone contraception, and wouldn’t pay a penny.
The nuns have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the paperwork itself infringes on their religious beliefs, too.
Yesterday, Mark Rienzi of Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who is lead counsel for the nuns, debated the issue with Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Hogue highlighted not only the accommodation that the policy already allows, but reminded viewers that even if the nuns do the paperwork, the group’s workers still wouldn’t get contraception given the Little Sisters of the Poor’s health plan, making the legal fight moot.
“It’s beyond me actually why Mr. Rienzi doesn’t just instruct his client to sign the form because no one’s going to get contraception and they can get back to doing the great work that they do to care for the elderly…. The form actually says they do not condone this. It affirms their religious beliefs and in this case, their employees will not get contraception at all.”
Rienzi wasn’t persuaded.
“It’s perfectly fine for people not to like signing forms. Signing this form is not akin to you signing a contract for your house. It’s something the Little Sisters of the Poor works are obviously deeply religious people says their God tells them not to do.”
Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) insisted over the weekend that the White House is trying to “silence a group of nuns.” This case is about a group claiming a religious objection to paperwork – no one is trying to silence anyone.
Postscript: I’m admittedly not the first to suggest this, but I wonder whether the Little Sisters of the Poor would object if someone filled out the paperwork for them, in a Shabbas goy kind of situation.