For seven long years, the nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor have fought tooth-and-nail for the right to continue their charitable mission without violating their deeply held religious convictions. It shouldn’t have been this difficult. After all, America was founded on the principle that we should be free to practice our faith openly and without fear of intimidation or persecution. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court has ensured the Little Sisters will continue to have that ability, ruling in their favor by 7 to 2.
Under President Obama, an army of federal bureaucrats, empowered and emboldened by the Affordable Care Act, specifically targeted religious nonprofits like the Little Sisters by forcing them to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs or pay millions of dollars in fines. The nuns begged the Obama Administration for an exemption from this outrageous mandate that represented a clear breach of their fundamental Catholic beliefs.
As you surely know, the Little Sisters are not a political organization. A religious order of the Roman Catholic Church, these nuns have devoted their lives to carrying for needy seniors just as they would care for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This way of life is their calling. They did not seek an epic legal battle against the government – they simply wanted to be allowed to continue to serve.
Unfortunately, the bureaucrats of the Obama Administration refused to budge. They saw an opportunity to advance their partisan agenda by forcing religious nonprofits to either conform and comply with their liberal ideals or close their doors forever. The nuns were only saved in 2017, when President Trump ordered the federal government to reverse its positions and grant the affected parties like The Little Sisters a long-deserved exemption from the intrusive big government requirements of Obamacare.
The joy of this victory was short-lived. Almost immediately, Pennsylvania and several other states sued to challenge the Trump administration’s new rule. These states launched a misguided legal campaign to force the federal government into pitting religious Americans against their own faith or choosing to end their charitable works. For over two years, this lawsuit has winded its way through the legal system and today stood before the Supreme Court.
Ruling in favor of the Trump administration’s exemption for religious nonprofits, the Supreme Court upheld the Little Sisters of the Poor’s constitutional right to maintain their lifelong vows of obedience to God and carry on their holy mission to assist the needy.
The quiet perseverance of the nuns makes it easy to overlook their importance in society. We see their dedication now in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of the Little Sisters’ nursing homes provide shelter to those most vulnerable to the virus – the elderly poor who often have nowhere else to turn. Even as coronavirus raged, the Sisters continued to diligently tend to their flock. This determination shows the caliber of their faith and the importance of their calling.
Our religious communities play a major role in shaping our country. Tragically, these groups are under siege from the Left, whether it is a school being targeted for allowing prayer in classrooms, or a Catholic foster care group being blocked from placing children in loving homes merely because the local city disagrees with their views on marriage. Today’s ruling is a win for all of these groups – and for all Americans.
The essential right of the People to live and work according to their own theology without the impediment of government is one of America’s most fundamental principles. Our religious nonprofits provide a vital service to our society. Government should honor their work, not curtail it.
Congressman Jody Hice (R-GA) is a senior member of the House Oversight Committee.