Editor’s Note: Nuns free from birth control fines

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

After a years-long legal battle against the Obama administration, a group of nuns has won for now, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The federal government was determined to force the Little Sisters of the Poor, who care for the elderly in poverty, to give the administration authority to use its health plan to provide contraceptives to employees.

And even though most of the Little Sisters’ employees probably don’t use birth control (they are nuns after all), the Sisters believed it was a matter of principle that they shouldn’t have to be involved with an act that clearly violates their conscience as Catholics.

The birth control mandate under Obamacare has caused lots of headaches for the administration, and this was one fight it never got right. While the government excluded churches and church-run ministries from the contraceptive mandate, it didn’t include religious charities, schools and hospitals. So it offered several “accommodations” to these other institutions, but they weren’t enough to appease the Little Sisters.

On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously decided to vacate lower court rulings against the nuns and prevent the government from fining the Little Sisters for its failure to comply with the contraceptive mandate. The nuns had faced $70 million a year in IRS fines.

And as President Barack Obama acknowledged following the decision, women who are covered by religious plans and want access to free birth control can still get it easily through other venues.

Trying to make the Sisters provide it in their health plan, however, was never the right call.