USCCB files amicus brief on behalf of Little Sisters of the Poor



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ABSTRACTUSCCB files amicus brief on behalf of Little Sisters of the Poor | National Catholic Reporter Skip to main content Subscribe Account Give Now Home About Advertise Contact Global Sisters Report Giving to NCR Give Now Ways to Give Stock and Securities Gifts Legacy/Estate Gifts Endowment Gifts Naming Opportunities Printable Forms National Catholic Reporter The Independent News Source Accountability Art & Media Faith & Parish Global Peace & Justice People Politics Spirituality Theology Vatican Sisters' Stories USCCB files amicus brief on behalf of Little Sisters of the Poor Pope Francis greets Sr. Marie Mathilde, 102, during his unannounced visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor residence in Washington Sept. 23. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano) Catholic News Service  |  Jan. 12, 2016 Print email PDF Washington The general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have asked the court for relief from being forced to comply with the federal contraceptive mandate. The brief was filed Jan. 8 in the Zubik v. Burwell case, which the court will hear this year. The case will determine whether the Little Sisters of the Poor and other ministries can be forced to comply with the contraceptive mandate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under the Affordable Care Act, all health insurance plans are required to provide coverage for birth control drugs and procedures. Churches themselves and other institutions that primarily employ and serve members of the churches are exempt. Nonprofit religious entities such as church-run colleges and social service agencies are not exempt, but the federal Department of Health and Human Services created what it calls an "accommodation" under which such organizations morally opposed to the coverage may file a particular form or notify HHS that they will not provide it. The contraceptive coverage is then provided to those organizations' employees, but through third parties, and with no cost or further involvement to the employer. Entities that refuse to comply with the mandate are subject to significant fines. Want to explore Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment? Check out Tom Reese's eBook, offering thoughtful questions and in-depth analysis. Get it today! The Little Sisters of the Poor and other organizations that sued say that the acts of filling out the form or notifying HHS are a substantial burden on their religious rights because the steps implicate them in the ultimate provision of contraceptives. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in a July 14 ruling, saying the sisters were not substantially burdened by procedures set out by the federal government by which they could avoid the requirement to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance. Related: Little Sisters of the Poor to attend President Obama's final State of the Union address The USCCB brief argues that the contraceptive mandate not only damages religious freedom, but society as a whole. "If the petitioners abide by their religious beliefs, they face the loss of the ability to sponsor health coverage for their employees and millions of dollars in fines, threatening financial ruin. No one benefits from such an outcome -- not the organizations, their donors, their clients, or their employees," the brief said. The brief also highlighted the major contributions made by Catholic and other religious charities and social services by assisting millions of people every year. Seven other Catholic and non-Catholic organizations signed onto the USCCB brief: Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities; Catholic Relief Services; Family Research Council; Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance; The Cardinal Newman Society; Thomas More Society; and World Vision. Other amicus briefs were filed by leaders from other faiths and members of Congress. "We have great admiration for the Little Sisters who are standing up not just for themselves and the elderly poor they serve, but for the rights of all people of faith, including Jews," said Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin in a statement. "Their courage is an example to all of us," added the rabbi, a member of the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. Commenting on the Eternal Word Television Network's brief filed Jan. 11 on behalf of .......