The Little Sisters Win–Again–But . . .

Last week, in a 7-2 decision the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of the Little Sisters of the Poor to avoid paying for contraceptives and abortifacients for their employees.

The Little Sisters in America are 300 women running 27 homes for indigent elderly.

The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled just four years ago that the nuns would not have to pay a $70 million fine for refusing to obey the Obamacare mandates on birth control and abortion–even though corporate giants like Exxon and Visa and others are exempt from the regulations.

Despite the Supreme Court having already upheld their freedom of conscience, Josh Shapiro, Attorney General of Pennsylvania followed along after Xavier Becerra, California’s AG, sued to force the nuns to provide contraceptives– those preventing conception and those abortive in nature. These men sued in an attempt to get the court to say states can force the nuns to do what the federal government cannot force them to do.

The nuns have spent nearly a decade in court.

Life Site News reports that “[Justice Clarence] Thomas wrote in his majority opinion[,] ‘We hold that the [federal government’s] Departments had the authority to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and conscientious objections.'”

But having the authority to exempt the nuns isn’t the same as having an obligation to exempt them. It leaves the question hanging like a door swinging in the wind with the change of administrations.

Lifesite points out that two justices made the argument for an obligation on the government’s part:

“In a concurring opinion, Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch went a step further and argued that not only were the Departments allowed to exempt the Little Sisters, but the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) actually ‘compels an exemption for the Little Sisters and any other employer with a similar objection to what has been called the  accommodation to the contraceptive mandate.'” (emphasis mine)

That view is commendable (and constitutional) and shows why SCOTUS appointments are crucial. If the winds of a new administration blow in a different direction, we will see new appointments and the door will swing again in the direction of oppression over freedom of conscience.

“While ultimately voting with the majority, [Justice Elena] Kagan explained in a concurring opinion that while she believed the relevant departments did have ‘statutory authority to exempt certain employers from the mandate,’ she also believes the accommodation made for the Little Sisters was broad enough that it could still be invalidated under the federal Administrative Procedure Act. So while the ruling is a major victory the Little Sisters and other opponents of compulsory birth control coverage, Kagan’s opinion also provides ammo to a potential future challenge.”

Sadly, we can expect to see the sisters in court yet again.

And last week’s decision affects more than a small sect of nuns, their employees, and their homes’ residents. These cases mark, not a turning point, but another stepping stone on our nation’s pathway (perhaps a circular one) between freedom and religious suppression.

Abolitionist Wendell Phillips said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. . . . The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten,”

Gather fresh manna daily. Be vigilant.

And in this season of turmoil and uncertainty, be especially vigilant in prayer.

Photo Credit: supremecourt.gov

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Then Pennsylvania Came for the Nuns

Martin Niemoller’s famous quote listing the Nazi victims comes to mind today.

This week the Little Sisters of the Poor are back in court–before the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS)–defending their right to follow their religious convictions against abortion and contraception.

This might sound like a rerun of the evening news, but it’s not.

It was just in 2016 that the Little Sisters successfully defended themselves against an Obamacare mandate requiring them to provide abortions, abortifacients (contraception that works after conception–i.e. medication or device abortion), and contraception as part of their employee medical insurance coverage.

The sisters faced the option of shutting down all their facilities or paying millions in fines.

Then they won.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro–presumed by many to be the next governor–wouldn’t let the issue die–despite a Health and Human Services (HHS) rule (at the federal level) that says otherwise. (California’s AG is also pursuing the case.)

A news release from Becket, defending the nuns, explains:

“HHS issued a new rule that protects religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor from providing services like the week-after pill in their healthcare plans in violation of their faith. This meant their four-year legal ordeal was close to an end. But shortly after, the state of Pennsylvania sued to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption.”

According to Becket, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to believe Shapiro has it in for the sisters:

“Pennsylvania admits that it already has and already uses many government programs to provide contraceptives to women who need them.  Pennsylvania never challenged the Obama Administration for creating much larger exceptions for secular corporations—exceptions that covered tens of millions more people than the religious exemption.  Pennsylvania does not even have its own contraceptive mandate at all.”

We of the Keystone Commonwealth should be asking how many of our tax dollars Shapiro has wasted on his persecution of the sisters.

We should realize that electing Shapiro as governor will open the door for more Kermit Gosnells. And we should consider whether that door has already opened.

Anyone concerned about freedom of religion in America should be watching closely for SCOTUS’s ruling on this case.

Photo Credit: Joshua Roberts/Reuters/Newscom

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Prayer for America Today

We are a divided country today. Righting ourselves begins with the Church. The following excerpt from Restoring the Shattered explains the role of repentance is rebuilding the image of the Church to the world.

—————–

Repentance is how we start to restore the image of the Bride [the Church], not in a public relations sense, but in a biblical one. And repentance begins with the faithful.

Why the faithful? Isn’t repentance something for the unbelieving population to grasp—those we perceive are messing up the world and dragging our culture into a downward spiral? Yes, it’s something they need to do to become part of the Bride, part of the picture. But the kind of repentance that can turn the world around is for us. It’s for his people already in the church.

I didn’t come to this idea on my own. I’d been praying for our nation to turn back to God, but in my mind that always involved something someone else needed to do. I’ll pray. I’ll watch. I’ll work when I can. I’ll cheer when it happens.

At brunch one day, my longtime friend, Renee, dropped a brick of truth on my head. “He calls his own people to repentance—my people … called by my Name.”

That is me.

That is us.

*****

The first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, are a study of contrasts. Each king had a prophet. Each one sinned. Only David repented.

Saul’s prophet was Samuel. Impatient Saul carried out a sacrifice, refusing to wait for Samuel who was supposed to perform it. Afterward, he explained to Samuel that he acted “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines [the enemy] were assembling at Michmash.”

Saul listed his motivations; maybe they sounded reasonable to him. Maybe they sounded silly as he listed them aloud for Samuel, who said, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.”[i] Saul stepped out of his role as king and into the wrong role of priest. But instead of confessing and repenting, he tried to justify himself.

David had a prophet too. When David committed adultery, impregnated the woman, and then arranged to have her husband killed to cover his crime, the prophet Nathan confronted him. Unlike Saul, David did not give a list of excuses. His response was, “I have sinned against the Lord.”[ii]

Saul and David both offended God. Saul made excuses and wore a false face before the people. David was transparent before God and Nathan. That difference set in motion the events that would remove Saul’s line from the throne of Israel and establish David’s in the line of Christ.

Many churches have turned the volume way down on the discussion of repentance and are blasting the message of God’s love. But we won’t find blessing unless we refuse Saul’s methods and adopt David’s.

Our news sources daily spew stories of atrocities accompanied by many excuses and little repentance. Sometimes we are aghast at what people try to justify: mass shootings, rape, looting, riots, and the list goes on.

There is a sense that my rights are sovereign and yours are nonexistent. Many in the church have bought into that message. Instead of confessing our sins and maintaining transparent lives, we justify our sins, deceiving ourselves that they don’t exist or simply don’t matter.

We can’t expect the world to exhibit behavior we don’t model. When we model repentance, others see David instead of Saul. Repentance is the first step on a life journey when we determine to follow Christ, but it’s also a frequent stopping place along the way—a place where we check our direction and retool our priorities, letting him reshape our attitudes.

Repentance produces changed people.

Repentance produces anointed, effective ministry.

Rather than being a negative burden, repentance is an overtly optimistic act.

God commands us to “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”[iii] Sin and life’s burdens weigh us down. On top of those burdens, we add the pressure to appear perfect.

Acknowledging our reality and letting others into that reality is uncomfortable, but that is where healing happens. There is no other way for us to “bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” [iv] That’s important, and we often overlook it. Sharing our burdens with one another fulfills the law—not just our prayer requests for that new job or relief of our child’s ear infection—but our burdens, what weighs us down and holds us back. Letting each other know our sins is uncomfortable. But confessing our sins to each other brings healing.


[i] 1 Samuel 13:11–13.

[ii] 2 Samuel 12:13.

[iii] James 5:16, emphasis added. The rest of the verse says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Righteousness follows repentance, not the other way around.

[iv] Galatians 6:2, emphasis added.


Photo Credit: Pixabay

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the authors.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”