We’re pleased today to learn that the Little Sisters of the Poor will not be forced by the government to compromise their religious beliefs after all.
Allow me to explain.
Rather than issue a final verdict, the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the lower courts to allow the over two dozen religious organizations and individuals involved in the Zubik v. Burwell case (in which Little Sisters is one of the religious parties) to work with the federal government to reach a compromise that takes care of the concerns of all parties.
Although it prolongs the ultimate resolution of the issue, this is an encouraging result.
The Zubik case, of course, concerns the clash between religious conscience and a mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The government has required employers like Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraceptives, including possible abortifacients, to their employees via company health plans. Understandably, the religious claimants in this case could not assent to that requirement without violating their deeply held beliefs about the sanctity of human life.
After oral arguments at the Court in March, the justices took the unusual step of asking the parties if there were ways to resolve the dispute. The religious claimants suggested several, and the government reluctantly agreed that those were possible. That prompted today’s decision from the Supreme Court sending the various related cases back to the courts of appeals where they made their last stop.
It certainly looks like there will be a positive resolution in this case that will preserve the religious conscience of Little Sisters and the other religious claimants.
That’s a very good thing, indeed.
If you’re like me, I’ve been increasingly frustrated with the zero-sum game in Washington lately. There are unprecedented assaults on religious liberties. I’m keenly aware that we live in a pluralistic, post-Christian culture, but there remains ample room to accommodate those of us with deeply held religious beliefs.