An order of Roman Catholic nuns has filed a lawsuit challenging an Obamacare requirement that their insurance benefits package provides the morning after pill to employees.
Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order that operates homes for the elderly, says the Health and Human Services Department provision goes against their religious faith, reports surburban Los Angeles newspaper, The Daily Breeze
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"The Little Sisters are driven by their religious faith to do what they do in terms of taking care of the elderly poor," said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the religious order. "The government should not be telling them they have to violate that faith to keep serving the poor.
"We’re asking for relief not only for the Little Sisters but also for other Catholic organizations that get their health benefits through the Christian Brothers Trust."
Churches are exempt from the HHS rule, which includes providing access to the morning-after pill and other contraceptives, and the Obama administration says it is trying to balance the objections of religious employers while making sure women can get no-cost contraception.
However, the Little Sisters do not fall under the government's guidelines for religion-based businesses.
The Little Sisters of the Poor, an international Roman Catholic congregation of women was founded in 1839 by St. Jeanne Jugan, said the Becket Fund. They operate homes in 31 countries, providing care for more than 13,000 needy elderly persons, and operate 30 homes in the United States.
"Like all of the Little Sisters, I have vowed to God and the Roman Catholic Church that I will treat all life as valuable, and I have dedicated my life to that work," said Sister Loraine Marie, Superior for one of the U.S. provinces in the congregation, in a statement issued by the Becket Fund. "We cannot violate our vows by participating in the government’s program to provide access to abortion-inducing drugs."
If the Little Sisters don't cooperate by January, they may face steep fines. Their case is one of 72 that have been filed under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
, enacted in 1993 to protect people bound by religious conscience from being subject to laws that violate their freedom of religion.
One of the largest cases filed so far was by the craft chain store Hobby Lobby
. The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, said that providing coverage to workers for the morning-after pill and similar contraceptives violated its Christian beliefs.
It also said it could have under Obamacare faced $1.3 million in daily fines by not providing such coverage. Hobby Lobby has 556 stores in 45 U.S. states.
The Little Sisters lawsuit also includes Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefits, which represents hundreds of similar nonprofit Catholic ministries.
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The Catholic Church condemns abortion as the taking of human life, and opposes artificial contraception, including objections to the "morning-after" pill.
The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver earlier this week, and names Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and their departments.
The Little Sisters organization says it employs non-Catholics in its homes for the elderly.
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