Five Judges Publish Dissent Against Nuns’ Birth Control Mandate Ruling

(PHOTO: THE BECKET FUND FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY) Members of a Catholic order of nuns known as the Little Sisters of the Poor stand outside the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals building in Denver, Colorado, along with William Mumma, President of the Becket Fund.
(PHOTO: THE BECKET FUND FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY)
Members of a Catholic order of nuns known as the Little Sisters of the Poor stand outside the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals building in Denver, Colorado, along with William Mumma, President of the Becket Fund.

In a rare act of dissent, five circuit judges have denounced a ruling by a federal court against a group of nuns trying to get an exemption from the federal government’s birth control mandate, calling the decision “clearly and gravely wrong.”

In July, a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Little Sisters of the Poor, arguing that the Catholic order cannot be exempted from the Department of Health and Human Services’ birth control mandate.

In the dissent published Thursday, five circuit judges argued that the panel decision against the nuns was “clearly and gravely wrong — on an issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty.”

“All the plaintiffs in this case sincerely believe that they will be violating God’s law if they execute the documents required by the government. And the penalty for refusal to execute the documents may be in the millions of dollars. How can it be any clearer that the law substantially burdens the plaintiffs’ free exercise of religion?” continued the dissent.

“Fortunately, the doctrine of the panel majority will not long survive. It is contrary to all precedent concerning the free exercise of religion. I am aware of no precedent holding that a person’s free exercise was not substantially burdened when a significant penalty was imposed for refusing to do something prohibited by the person’s sincere religious beliefs …”

In September 2013, the Little Sisters of the Poor filed a suit against HHS over its controversial “preventive services” mandate.

Although the mandate exempts houses of worship automatically under the “religious employers” category, the Little Sisters did not receive an automatic exemption, but received what the Obama administration refers to as an “accommodation.”

Under the accommodation, the Little Sisters are not required to cover birth control in their health insurance, but they are required to certify that they seek the accommodation, which allows employees to get the coverage indirectly. That certification, the Little Sisters say, makes them complicit in sin. Additionally, the Little Sisters argue that religious freedom is not just for churches, so they should receive the same exemption given to churches.

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SOURCE: The Christian Post
Michael Gryboski

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