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Nuns ask Supreme Court to protect their conscience freedoms

By Jonathan Imbody | October 22, 2015

Excerpted from "Law Firm for the Little Sisters Asks Supreme Court to Hear Its Obamacare Case," The Daily Signal, October 14, 2015 - The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit law firm dedicated to preserving religious liberty for people of all faiths, filed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, asking it to hear the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who provide shelter and health care for the elderly poor, have filed a class action lawsuit against the Obama administration in order to be exempt from an Obamacare provision that requires employers to pay for abortifacient drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives in their employee health plans.

The teachings of the Catholic Church forbid the use of abortifacients and artificial birth control, and the nuns have argued that paying for such drugs would be a violation of their conscience. The government filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to refuse to hear the Little Sisters’ case and to choose a different case regarding the Health and Human Services Mandate.

The provision does allow for some religious institutions to be exempt from providing the drugs, but the government has argued that the Little Sisters do not qualify. In an interview with The Daily Signal, Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel for The Becket Fund, said the government is making the “odd” and “dangerous” argument that the Little Sisters “aren’t religious enough” to qualify for the exemption.

“It’s hard to be more religious than the Little Sisters,” Blomberg said. “The federal government has drawn a discriminatory line between the Little Sisters and the church they serve.” The Little Sisters have argued that the order to provide abortifacient drugs violates both the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment.


Jonathan ImbodyCMA VP for Govt. Relations Jonathan Imbody: “We are a nation of laws, but as our 18th century forbears learned, the rule of law means little if the government does not follow the law. This administration has demonstrated an astonishing lack of regard for religious freedoms long recognized in the U.S. Constitution, in laws and in the courts.

“In the Hosanna Tabor case, for example, the Obama administration attempted to restrict the hiring rights of religious organizations. The Supreme Court labeled the administration’s position as an ‘extreme,’ ‘untenable’ and ‘remarkable’ assault on the First Amendment. Even the Obama appointees joined in a unanimous (9-0) decision against the administration, observing, ‘By imposing an unwanted minister, the state infringes the Free Exercise Clause, which protects a religious group’s right to shape its own faith and mission through its appointments.’

Other anti-religious freedom actions by this administration include:

  • The coercive contraceptive mandate that the Little Sisters of the Poor and many others including CMA are fighting, since it imposes pro-abortion ideology on pro-life individuals and institutions.
  • The gutting of the only federal conscience regulation in healthcare—an action that has opened the door to discrimination against healthcare professionals.
  • The denial of federal funds to a Catholic ministry, just for opposing abortions, resulting in a loss of quality care by the ministry for human trafficking victims.
  • Failure to address firings, discrimination and coercion of life-honoring healthcare professionals nationwide, which not only infringes on conscience freedoms but also imperils healthcare access.

Taking our religious freedoms for granted is a sure way to lose them. We must elect pro-life, pro-religious freedom public officials. And to preserve your professional standing, you must educate yourself and your colleagues on conscience freedoms in healthcare.


  1. Protect conscience freedom in healthcare - HR 940 - Tell your legislators to preserve patient choice and protect pro-life professionals from discrimination for moral and ethical views, by passing the Healthcare Conscience Rights Act.
  2. Protect freedom of faith and conscience related to abortion - S 50 - Let your legislators know that no healthcare professional should be forced to choose between their career and following the principles of ethical medicine. Pass the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act.

Resources – CMA’s flagship website on freedom of faith, conscience and speech

Faith Steps – new book by CMA Vice President for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody on how Christians can engage in the public square as a witness for Christ and to advance God’s principles and religious freedom. Available online at CMDA bookstore or by calling 888-230-2637. NEW: Use Faith Steps with your student or graduate group or Sunday School class, using a 13-week study guide.

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