The Supreme Court has again thwarted the Obama administration’s illegal crusade to coerce employers into violating their religious convictions. Late last Wednesday, Associate Justice Samuel Alito stayed an order secured by the administration in a lower court that would have forced several Catholic organizations to comply with Obamacare’s contraception mandate. Despite a high-profile Supreme Court defeat last June in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, President Obama’s HHS bureaucrats and lawyers have continued their attempts to bully obviously exempt entities into obeying the mandate. Justice Alito’s action constitutes the fifth time SCOTUS has been compelled to rein the government in.
The Court has found it necessary to issue similar orders protecting Little Sisters of the Poor, Wheaton College, the University of Notre Dame, and of course Hobby Lobby. This latest stay shields a number of organizations based in Pennsylvania, including charities, schools, and social service operations associated with the Catholic dioceses of Erie and Pittsburgh. It also requires the Obama administration’s lawyers to provide a justification to the Court, “on or before April 20,” for their threat to fine these institutions for refusing to acquiesce in the mandate. Obama’s lawyers will have to explain how this group of organizations is any different from the others to which SCOTUS has already granted relief.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents several clients challenging the mandate, responded to Justice Alito’s order with a statement suggesting that this will be a difficult case for the DOJ to make: “For years now the government has been claiming that places like Catholic Charities and the Little Sisters of the Poor are not ‘religious employers’ worthy of an exemption.” Highlighting the absurdity of this claim, the statement also points out a fact that even an Obama administration lawyer might have noticed by now: “Every time a religious plaintiff has gone to the Supreme Court for protection from the government’s discriminatory mandate the Court has protected them.”
Yet the Obama administration continues to waste millions of taxpayer dollars in pursuit of this ridiculously unsuccessful jihad. The organizations that Justice Alito stepped in to protect want nothing more than to be left in peace so they can pursue the charitable and social work in which they have long been engaged. They refuse to comply with the mandate because it requires them to provide birth control products and services to which they have strongly held religious objections. That these groups have rejected the contraception mandate as well as the President’s meaningless “accommodation” and continue to trounce his lawyers in court seems to have made no impression on him or his minions.
And these legal defeats are by no means limited to the Supreme Court. The establishment “news” media have largely ignored Obama administration drubbings in the lower courts, but they are piling up. Hercules Industries, for example, just won a challenge to the contraception mandate in Colorado: “The March 16 permanent injunction from U.S. District Judge John Kane for the District of Colorado said the plaintiffs in the case were protected by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Hercules, a Catholic-owned manufacturer of HVAC equipment, had been fighting the government lawyers since 2012. More than 100 organizations are still engaged in similar legal battles over the mandate.
All of which raises an obvious question: Why? Groups like NOW tell us tell us that it’s all about “reproductive rights” and that an employer who declines to obey the contraception mandate is somehow preventing women from accessing birth control. This is nonsense, of course. As the statement from the Becket Fund puts it, “The federal bureaucracy has lots of options for distributing contraceptives—they don’t need to coerce nuns and priests to do it for them.” The real problem lies in the very charitable and social work in which these nuns and priests are engaged. Statists like Barack Obama and his HHS bureaucrats see Catholic charities, schools, and social service operations as competitors.
And they’re right. For generations, Catholic charities have provided social services to Americans of all religions. Long before the federal government began building the welfare state with money extorted from the taxpayers, Catholic agencies were using voluntary donations to provide relief to the poor, medical care to the sick, and education to the unlettered. Today, as the left-leaning PolitiFact reluctantly admitted in a gratuitous attempt to debunk an offhand assertion by a former Republican governor, “Catholic charity work is extensive and widely considered a crucial part of the nation’s social safety net.” On the Forbes list of the largest U.S. charities, two Catholic organizations can be found in the top 20.
This is not good news for President Obama or his HHS minions, who seek government monopolies on social services, health care, and education. For them, the contraception mandate is a weapon with which to force religious organizations to accept the primacy of the state or shut down in order to avoid violating their beliefs. But, as I have pointed out before, this is not a new phenomenon. Catholics have been fending off attacks from secular states for centuries. Most of those states are now gone, along with their delusional rulers, while the Catholic institutions they sought to suppress still thrive. As the Becket Fund asks, “How many times must the government lose… before it gets the message?”