Supremes Let Little Sisters Have Their Way During Appeal; AP Ridiculously Calls That Result a 'Compromise'

January 24th, 2014 11:49 PM

On Friday, the Supreme Court issued a one-paragraph order in Little Sisters of the Poor et al v. Sebeluis et al. It told the Sisters that for the case to continue with no enforcement of the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, they need only to inform the government in writing "that they are non-profit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services." That's easy, because that's what they are, and that's their position.

As a result, the government has been "enjoined from enforcing against the applicants the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition." In other words, the Sisters will get their way until the case is decided. After the jump, I'll present a bit of the sane coverage by the Washington Post's Robert Barnes, followed by portions of the reality-avoiding writeup of Jesse Holland found at the Associated Press.

First, from WaPo's Barnes (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Supreme Court says nuns are exempt for now from Obamacare contraceptives rule

The Supreme Court said Friday that a group of Colorado nuns does not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers offer insurance plans that cover contraceptives while the nuns pursue a legal challenge of that portion of the law.

In a short and unsigned order, the court said the Little Sisters of the Poor must simply inform the Obama administration that they are a religious organization that should be exempt from the requirement.

The court order says the nuns do not have to sign a government form to which they objected because they said it authorizes a third-party to provide the contraceptive coverage.

“This order should not be construed as an expression of the court’s views on the merits” of the legal challenge, the order said.

“We’re very happy,” said Mark L. Rienzi, a Catholic University law professor who is representing the nuns on behalf of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The nuns employ about 75 people in their ministry to serve the elderly.

Rienzi said the nuns have never objected to stating their religious affiliation. But they said the required “self-certification” letters to the Department of Health and Human Services would make them complicit in the government’s plan to provide contraceptive services, because the law provides that third-party insurers still provide the coverage.

... Groups supporting contraceptive coverage played down the importance of the court’s order.

What really happened appears to have put the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, into a bind. The wire service provides the copy, usually published without substantive alteration execpt for editing for space, for what its thousands of subscribing outlets will put into print and post on the web tonight. Additionally, it provides scripts adapted from its reports for use in broadcast news which are typically read verbatim.

Apparently, accurately telling the nation what really happened, i.e., that the Little Sisters got their way, at least temporarily, would harm the Obama administration's cause. So the AP's Jesse Holland avoided calling the Court's order an "order" until his ninth paragraph, and ridiculously framed the entire matter as a "compromise":



The Supreme Court on Friday offered a short-term compromise that would continue to exempt a group of Denver nuns that operates charity nursing homes from the birth control mandate of the nation's health care law if they declare their objections in writing.

The nuns will take the court up on its offer and provide a written notice, officials said.

The justices asked the nuns to write the Department of Health and Human Services declaring themselves a religious nonprofit organization and making their objection to birth control. In return, the high court would continue to block for them the contraceptive coverage requirement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, while their appeal is heard in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Their nuns' lawyer, Mark Rienzi of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said they were delighted to hear about the court's decision. "It made no sense for the Little Sisters to be singled out for fines and punishment before they could even finish their suit," he said.

Under the health care law, most health insurance plans have to cover all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives as preventive care for women, free of cost to the patient. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the birth control requirement, but affiliated institutions that serve the general public are not. That includes charitable organizations, universities and hospitals.

In response to an outcry, the government came up with a compromise that requires insurers or health plan administrators to provide birth control coverage but allows the religious group to distance itself from that action. The exemption is triggered when the religious group signs a form for the insurer saying that it objects to the coverage. The insurer can then go forward with the coverage.

A group of Denver nuns who run nursing homes for the poor, called the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, say signing that form makes them complicit in providing contraceptive coverage, and therefore violates their religious beliefs.

The high court exempted them from the government form requirements, saying the nuns only have to inform HHS in "writing."

Holland, who proudly tells the world at his Twitter page that he is "a husband and a dad," must know that "signing that form" does make the Sisters "complicit in providing contraceptive coverage." But on the off-chance that he doesn't, I'll provide an analogy.

Your child is watching one of his or her friends beat up another friend. I would hope that you believe your child should intervene to put a halt to the carnage.

But what if the friend who is administering the beating presents your child with a form to sign saying, "I object to what you're doing and really wish you would stop." Would you really be satisfied and say that your child did all they could do in the circumstances to prevent serious harm if he or she were to simply sign the form and walk away?

Gosh, I hope not, Jesse.

The Little Sisters are being compelled to do what I would hope Jesse Holland would not want his child to do. In the court case, the Sisters are supposed to condone the provision of abortifacient drugs and medical devices after signing a "We don't like it" form. They have no moral choice but to resist.

Cross-posted at