Throwing a monkey wrench into Obamacare’s Jan. 1, 2014 requirement for health insurers to cover birth control, 59-year-old Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor allowed her Catholic faith to interfere with her oath of office. Sotomayor, a former Justice in the 2nd District Court of Appeals, knows the importance of the Constitution’s Separation Clause, where religion doesn’t interfere with Constitutional rights. Responding to Catholic-affiliated groups’ request for injunctive relief in the Supreme Court to stop Obamacare’s birth control requirement, Sotomayor blocked implementation of the contraception provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Sotomayor responded directly to a last ditch attempt by a Denver-based group of Catholic nuns called Little Sisters of the Poor for Aged for a stay after getting denied by the U.S. 2 nd Court of Appeals. Sotomayor’s religious faith should have no bearing on her Constitutional decisions.
Little Sisters of the Poor for Aged has no material interest in birth control since their constituents are beyond fertility years, not relevant in the contraception debate other than backing the Vatican’s prohibition against birth control. Insisting the government is “temporarily enjoined from enforcing against applicants the contraceptive coverage imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” said Sotomayor’s order, preventing Obamacare from forcing the nuns to violate their Roman Catholic vow against contraception. Obscuring the real issue, Sotomayor allowed her Catholic faith to interfere with logic and fairness behind the Affordable Care act, making no exceptions for religious or ethnic rights under a federal law. No religious group or institution should be allowed to interfere with a part of a federal law that applies to all citizens regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, preventing discrimination and unequal treatment.
When health insurance subscribers choose a Catholic-based hospital they expect the same minimum standards of treatment as any other government or private funded hospital. Giving Catholic-based hospitals exceptions makes no sense because they’re not allowed to discriminate against patient, regardless of religious, racial or ethnic background. “The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people,” said Mark Reinzi, a lawyer representing the nuns. “It doesn’t need to force nuns to participate,” misrepresenting federal law. Giving the nuns a way out of providing contraceptive services assumes that the nuns are health care professionals, engaged in providing medical services. If Catholic hospitals are granted exceptions, it opens up a can of worm for other religious, racial or ethnic groups to ask for other exceptions. Nuns running health care institutions shouldn’t be allowed to prevent subscribers from receiving full benefits under the law.
Churches and religious-based institutions are exempt from the Obamcare contraception, except affiliated hospitals, charitable organizations, universities and medical clinics, all require compliance with federal law. Obama administration officials insist the Affordable Care Act rules “strike a balance of providing women with free contraceptive coverage while preventing non-profit religious organizations with religious objections to contraceptive coverage from have to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for such coverage,” said the White House. When it comes to Catholic and Christian-based hospitals, they’re required to comply with the ACA, regardless of exemptions for religious-based non-profits. Sotomayor gave the White House until 10 am EST, Friday, Jan. 3, to respond to her stay or face a permanent injunction. Banning contraception for Catholic-based hospitals and clinics poses real problems for other religious-based institutions also seeking exceptions.
Providing health care under the president’s ACA requires institutions to comply with all provisions of federal law, including offering free contraceptions. Whatever the Vatican’s objections should have no bearing on the implementation of ACA. When President John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he emphatically guaranteed that no decision made in the Oval Office would be from the Vatican. Giving the Little Sisters an exemption against supplying contraception, Sotomayor violates the Constitution’s Separation Clause, preventing any elected official or government entity from taking orders from Rome or any other foreign capital. “Without the emergency injunction, Mother Provincial Lorraine Marie McGuire has to decide between two courses of action: (a) sign and submit a self-certification form thereby violating her religious beliefs or (b) refuse to sign the form and pay ruinous fines,” said Rienzi, knowing his clients aren’t harmed handing out birth control.
Sotomayor let her Roman Catholic faith dictate her Constitutional decision-making. She knows that she’s not at liberty to impose her religious values on her Supreme Court opinions. “Because I believe that appellants are unlikely to prevail on their claim that the challenged, provision imposes a ‘substantial burden’ under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I would deny their application for an injunction pending appeal,” said appeals court Judge David S. Tanel, rejecting the Nuns' arguments. Tatel got it right that there’s no “substantial burden” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to block the contraception provision of the Affordable Care Act. Religious-based health care entities are not religious institutions, nor subject to the same exceptions as Churches or other religious groups. White House officials should find plenty of reasons to rescind Sotomayor’s egregious obedience to the Pope regarding contraception.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.