“Liberty means not allowing freedom”—Nuns

What does liberty mean to you? Normally, we associate liberty with freedom, i.e. the absence of people telling us, “You’re not allowed to do that.” But the Little Sisters of the Poor have a definition of liberty that seems to be the exact opposite. And they’re suing the government for the right to impose this “liberty” on their employees. The NPR web site reports:

The Justice Department has argued that the nuns’ group is already exempt from providing birth control under the ACA, as long as it certifies its standing as a religious nonprofit. But the Little Sisters of the Poor, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, argues that documentation simply condones employees getting the coverage elsewhere.

“The sisters, under the new Health and Human Services mandate, are being forced by the government to either sign a form allowing a third party to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs to their employees, or they’re being threatened with fines,” says Becket Fund director Kristina Arriaga.

Note the substance of their complaint. The government just wants them to sign a form saying they are a religious nonprofit. In other words, all the government wants them to do is to tell the truth about themselves and the nature of their organization. But they object to doing so, because if they admit they have religious objections to contraception, their employees will be allowed to choose whether or not to obtain contraceptive coverage elsewhere. In other words, the law protects the religious liberty of their employees by giving each of them the freedom to make their own choices and follow their own consciences. In this case, the law is protecting the religious liberty of the employees from an organization that does not want them to be allowed to follow their own conscience.

“No fair!” cry the nuns. “How can we have religious liberty if we’re not allowed to tell our own employees that they cannot receive any coverage for contraception?” They seem to have missed the point that religious liberty is the right of the individual, and that this right is what is being protected by the law.

But Arriaga tells NPR’s Arun Rath the provision doesn’t do enough to protect religious liberty.

“Little Sisters of the Poor feel that whether they provide the [coverage] to their employees or they make someone else do it, it’s the same thing. It’s a sin,” she says. “They cannot in good conscience sign that form, and their conscientious objection should absolutely be respected by the government.”

But of course, they’re not making anyone provide health care coverage. The government is the one requiring insurance companies to provide the coverage, and the only thing the form does is to honestly report the nature of the employer’s business so that this responsibility can be allocated in a way that respects religious liberty. The nuns are guilty of mere obstructionism designed to deprive their individual employees of their religious liberty.



  1. stripeycat says

    Their argument, such as it is, is that signing the form (which is needed for a woman to get 3rd party contraceptives) makes them accessory to her getting contraceptives. It is pure obstructionism, and that’s their whole point.

  2. Nightshade says

    I suppose the nuns feel they are “aiding and abetting” what they believe is immorality.By giving people the opportunity to do wrong they themselves are doing wrong.I suspect most people would accept the premise that restricting individual freedom in some ways is necessary to advance liberty.Our society limits the freedom not to hire somebody because of their race,religion etc.This restriction on individual freedom of what is considered “immoral” behavior by some is believed to advance liberty .

  3. steve oberski says

    Sounds pretty simple to me.

    Don’t sign the form and voluntarily give up your standing as a religious nonprofit.

    Small price to pay to follow your conscience, isn’t it ?

    Oh I forgot, it’s others that have to pay the price for your religious “freedom”.

  4. had3 says

    The business entity does not have religious feelings anymore than it has feelings of guilt or love, or hunger. The law allows business entities to opt out so long as they fall under certain conditions, but how is the government supposed to know if the business qualifies for exemption without the business certifying it? As stated, there’s no requirement to be organized as a business entity, the nuns are welcome to be individuals doing what they want to do without having employees.

  5. stever says

    It’s a smoke screen. The Little Sisters of the Poor (Don’t you just love the ostentatious humility of that name?) need to have a battalion of IRS forensic accountants go through their books with a microscope, preferably right now. While the lawyers dance, there are probably hundreds of paper shredders and old impact printers running around the clock to hide the money.

  6. thebookofdave says

    Does requiring affirmation that you are a religious nonprofit by checking off a form restrict free exercise or demonstrate excessive entanglement with government? If so, then creating separate classes for taxation is abusive discrimination, since asking for a mission statement or imposing rules for declaring their 501(c)3 status violates the civil rights of religious organizations. Corporate persons, who have their own rights, should never be questioned about which of their activities are for profit, and which are religious expression. Perhaps, in the distant future, meat persons will be granted civil rights of their own, and we can all live tax free!

  7. says

    Does anyone have the text of this waiver that the nuns would have to sign? I’m finding it impossible to find online, which honestly says really bad things about the debate if not even news stories are looking at the text and assessing the nuns arguments.

  8. =8)-DX says

    This whole nonsense is *still* based on the absurd notion that health insurance somehow belongs to the employer – nonsense. Set up a single payer universal healthcare system and understand that each person’s insurance is their own – coverage decisions should be made between insurers, their clients and doctors, based on the current insurance mandate from the government.

    It’s none of my employers business what and how I make use of my health insurance, (or how I spend my pension, my bonuses, what tax deductions I make use of… ) None. Of. Their. Business.


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