Quote of the Day:

It takes some doing to get embroiled in a court fight with nuns who provide hospice care for the indigent.

–Rich Lowry

But, as Lowry observes, “amazingly” the Obama administration is now in a legal fight with a bunch of nuns whose mission is nothing more nefarious than helping the indigent elderly.

The Little Sisters operate nursing homes in the U.S. and Europe, including the Jeanne Jugan Residence in Northeast Washington, D.C., which has both nursing and boarding facilities. The Little Sisters go out of their way to make the lives of their patients happy, celebrating birthdays, taking people to museums and malls, and creating a homelike atmosphere.

You’d think that, if you care about providing homes and care for the poor, this would be an organization to be encouraged. This is the sort of group that provides a service that government doesn’t know how to give. But the nuns also belong to the Catholic Church, which teaches that abortion and contraception are wrong.

The administration has put the Little Sisters and other religious employers who have reservations about contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs in a serious bind: the administration has required that a group such as the nuns, who have such moral reservations, must authorize their insurer to cover these services for the group’s employees.

The Obama administration has granted numerous exemptions from ObamaCare but allowing the nuns to exercise their religious freedom and continue their good works unimpeded is a bridge too far. Lowry writes:

[T]his is a fight the administration won’t walk away from. For this White House, it is a matter of principle. And the principle is that the state trumps the convictions of people with deep-held religious beliefs.

I see these nuns every year when the come to my parish to beg. Somehow I am not surprised that these ladies, though humble, are proving recalcitrant.

The Little Sisters refuse to sign such a document. They happen to be in an unusual situation because they get their insurance from another religiously affiliated organization opposed to contraceptives and abortifacients, so it may be that these drugs don’t get covered no matter what. But the Little Sisters can’t be sure of this — the regulations are complicated and subject to change.

Regardless, they don’t want to sign. They want no part in authorizing coverage of contraceptive or abortive drugs. Enthusiasts for the mandate scoff. What the nuns are objecting to, they insist, is just a piece of paper.

Just a piece of paper? So is a mortgage. So is a wedding certificate. So is a will. How would the board of directors of NARAL react if the government forced them to sign a “piece of paper” tacitly condemning contraception or abortion? Would they shrug it off as a mere formality?

But of course the administration knows that what they are asking the nuns to sign is more than a piece of paper. They are being asked to sign away their religious freedom. This is no mere formality.

Contraception is inexpensive and widely available—this was the case when I was growing up in the dark ages and it is more than ever the case today. Any teen-aged girl can get contraception. The government has an array of programs that provide low-income people with financial help in obtaining contraception. So why bully the nuns?

The contraception battle is, as Lowry points out, about ideology, not contraception:

The contraception mandate has always had a strong ideological impetus. Opponents of the mandate “want to roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius notoriously declared in 2011. “We’ve come a long way in women’s health over the last few decades, but we are in a war.” By this bizarre way of thinking, a small congregation of nuns that cares for the most vulnerable is somehow complicit in a war on women’s health.

Instead of respecting the moral views of the Little Sisters, the administration hopes to grind them under foot by force of law. For shame.

The administration is willing to harm elderly people of the sort who might find a happy home with the Little Sisters. Whatever you think about contraception and abortion, this is wrong.

In bullying of the nuns, the administration reveals something ugly: ObamaCare was never about helping people; it was always about winning an ideological battle…at any cost.