Roman Catholic

Trump Administration Not Backing Off Legal Battle With Catholic Nuns

This is why you shouldn't trust a man who has no principles of his own to do right by yours.


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What you see with Donald Trump is what you get. Until it's not.

On the campaign trail the GOP nominee repeatedly vowed to side with the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who run nursing homes to care for the indigent elderly. They and six other religious nonprofits had been embroiled in a legal battle with the Obama administration over a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule saying they had to help make sure their employees have access to totally free contraception and sterilizations.

The Supreme Court last spring kicked the case back to a lower court and ordered the two sides to try to come up with a compromise—getting women access to birth control, in other words, but doing so without forcing the sisters, who object on moral grounds to those products and procedures, to be involved in a way they believe makes them complicit in sin.

But that was when most everyone still believed that Hillary Clinton would be our next commander in chief, and, thus, that she would get to select the person to fill then–recently departed Justice Antonin Scalia's seat on the high court. It was also assumed that her HHS Department would be eager to continue the fight against the Catholic sisters, et al.

After Trump shocked the world on November 8, all those predictions flew out the window. But it seems the new set of assumptions that replaced them—namely, that Trump, a Republican who campaigned promising to protect religious liberty, would actually do so—may have been wrong as well. In October, he penned a letter to the Catholic Leadership Conference in which he explicitly proclaimed that

Hillary Clinton supports forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor who have taken care of the elderly poor since 1839 [to] pay for contraceptives in their health care plan (even though they have never wanted them, never used them and never will), and having the government fine them heavily if they continue to refuse to abide by this onerous mandate. That is a hostility to religious liberty you will never see in a Trump administration.

As The Washington Post is now reporting, conservative Trump voters may have been taken for a ride they weren't expecting. Rather than rescinding the HHS mandate or dropping the government's case, his Justice Department yesterday "asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for an additional 60 days to negotiate."

The best-case scenario is that this is mere incompetence on the part of an administration still in its first 100 days. The Post notes that "Justice argued in its petition…that it needs more time to litigate the case because numerous Cabinet and subcabinet positions in several federal agencies involved remain unfilled several months into the new administration." Perhaps they really do just need to get butts in seats in order to put the wheels in motion to end the fight.

I've also heard it suggested that Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants this to be decided by the Supreme Court now that Trump's pick in Neil Gorsuch is safely aboard. But until he comes out saying that's his plan, this move will be cause for concern.

The Trump administration is now locked in battle with Christians on at least two fronts. Numerous Catholic and other religious groups have objected to the president's executive orders on immigration. (In March, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., told the Post that "When we come to something like immigration, our voice is always going to be: Aren't we supposed to be welcoming people, especially those who are fleeing persecution?") Whatever the reason, it now seems Trump's lieutenants are content to let the legal battle against the Little Sisters of the Poor drag on as well.

As I wrote last month over at America magazine, there's reason to think Trump was bolstered in the election by a sense that Clinton would be hostile to religious freedom. White born-again Christians voted for him by an even higher margin than they did George Bush—who is himself a white born-again Christian—in 2004. For a primer on why that might have been, I'd direct you to this post from the evangelical Christian blogger Jonathon Van Maren. "The simple fact is that Christians voted in self-defence," he wrote. "They voted to put the brakes on the relentless, eight-year-long assault not just on their values, but on their ability to live their lives unmolested without having radical progressives attempt to force some newly invented ideology down their throat or hang some new 'phobia' label around their necks or garnish their wages."

This moment should be a reminder that trusting a man who has no principles of his own to do right by yours is a dangerous proposition. Put not your trust in princes, as I think I read somewhere.

NEXT: Eating Less Salt Does Not Lower Blood Pressure for Most Americans, Says Yet Another Study

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  1. But until he comes out saying that’s his plan, this move will be cause for concern.

    That mythical plan itself should be of concern to the Little Sisters of the Poor. You never really know which way any those nine robed attorneys will decide on any given case.

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  2. This shouldn’t even be a religious issue. Birth control is not health care, full stop.

    1. Full stop? Get out of here with that abstinence baloney.

      1. Get out of here with that abstinence baloney. hogwash.

        1. Abstinence Hogwash was my nickname during a particularly rough summer in middle school. 🙁

          1. “Citizen, you get in there and wash the rest of those hogs before dinner!”

            “Mother, I abstain.”

  3. Trump promised to make them shed their bad habits.

    1. I… that was… ugh… *walks away shaking head*

  4. I suppose it is natural that the writer feels the blame should be put on Trump because she calls her self a “journalist” But in a judicial branch that is supposed to run independently of the other two branches it is up to Jeff Sessions and his department. Secondly, abortion is not healthcare unless the fetus endangers the mothers life. Otherwise you should just call it a procedure like plastic surgery to remove an unwanted tumor (which just happens to be a life). Often it is a matter of convenience and not taking responsibility for prior actions…like buying a pet when you are drunk. Thirdly, I think that when you work for a private concern and you know that they do not support a type of medical practice, then don’t take the job. If you found that the job wants you to work every holiday and you objected would you take them to court too? I am not someone who has a strong religious background so my feeling do not come from there but the constitutional sections protecting religious freedom. Liberals will bend over backwards to support Muslim religious rules like making a school have hallal meals, so why would they not support this?

    1. But in a judicial branch that is supposed to run independently of the other two branches it is up to Jeff Sessions and his department.


    2. If this was not up to trump, then why was he running his cheetoh hole about it making claims he…uh, never mind.

    3. The religious freedom clause in the Constitution doesn’t grant any rights to discriminate against others based on their beliefs. Nor does it offer any rights for people with a certain faith to engage in a business or profession where their faith might come into conflict with such. People who apply for employment shouldn’t have the burden of exploring what religious nonsense a company might force upon them someday, nor should they just walk away from a job because of it. The medical profession requires trained and educated people, a field where science is the highest order of importance. I would like to see all religion banned from running schools, hospitals, and anything involving health & medicine.

      No mentally ill or ignorant fool who believes in the nonexistent sky-God should ever be allowed to force others to abide by their terms, and they certainly shouldn’t be running free in the healthcare segment.

      1. new troll, hmmmm….

    4. Your arguments fail. If the baby is not wanted then what kind of life will it have. A lot of women wouldn’t have to worry about as much for it if states that think they are also religious institutions add more and more barriers to getting an aborition to try and get around Roe v. Wade. Liberals are no more likely to bend over and support Muslims than Christians, what they are more likely to see is Christians stomping on Muslims’ rights and speak up about. Libertarians should be happy to see people protecting religious freedom, instead they claim to be Libertarian but are actually conservatives that just like Libertarian economic philosophy, but still want to control the way people live their lives and use their moral police force to strike down people that want to live religion free lives. To often I see people here claiming to be Libertarians who just support Libertarian money policy, but don’t respect Liberty of the Mind and Body.

  5. Apparently American churches are running low on tithers.

  6. You know who else beats up on The Little Sisters of the Poor?

    1. Besides Ohio State every September.

      1. right before their scheduled bye week.

  7. Its a play for time. Trump cannot repeal Obmacare himself, so he needs time to get all the RINOs in Congress in line to repeal ObamaCare.

    The media (Reason included) are just regurgitating the same media hopes and dreams. The media and the left hope and dream that they can stop the rolling back of progressivism by saying that Trump is being stopped. That’s their whole strategy. They print lies and speculation to try and curb the rolling back of their socialist maneuvers.

  8. People are free to believe in and practice their religious faith, but they don’t have the right to force those beliefs on others, especially those who they employ or serve. If you can’t separate your delusional love for the nonexistent sky-God and the insanity inscribed within the little book of fictitious and illogical nonsense from your business or profession then you must choose one or the other. Sorry, but that’s the limit on your right to believe in God and the rights of others to live in accordance with theirs. The intrusions into people’s lives by these religious fanatics is utterly insane. I don’t think that religion should be allowed to operate schools or medical facilities where truth and reasoned knowledge are needed most of all. Anyone that owns a business or enjoys a profession who refuses to bake a cake for a gay wedding, or refuse to fill a prescription for this or that needs to have their business and whatever professional certification or license taken away or revoked.

    And, before anyone should be asking for exemptions from what all the rest of us are required to adhere to, you damn well better practice every damn act as it’s written in the bible or whatever other work of fiction you cling to.

    1. and vice versa, numbnuts…..fuck off, slaver.

    2. Exactly they are all about “tax is theft” but beyond that they want to invoke their morals on everyone else.

  9. The real problem here is that government is involved in so many different areas, so it impinges on areas that religious people care about in more ways than were previously the case.

    That said, I’m not comfortable with the idea that religion should give one an exemption from a “law of general applicability” to use the legal term. Right now it’s nuns and birth control. But in a few years it could be people from Africa objecting to the federal law against Female Genital Mutilation.

    Is it only a religious freedom problem if it’s Christians who are affected? Is one religion more equal than other religions? So far, the few decisions on that subject have seemed to tend that way. Hobby Lobby gets an exemption from Obamacare’s requirement that they pay for birth control etc., but if a group wanted to use, say, mescaline as a religious sacrament, I doubt they’d get an exemption from the law that makes it a “Schedule 1” drug.

    If we’re really talking about religious liberty for everybody, than really almost any law can be eviscerated, because anything that calls itself a religion _is_ a religion — Scientology for example.

    My view on the idea of religious liberty trumping general laws is, to borrow a phrase from the 70s, “Don’t go there.”

  10. “The simple fact is that Christians voted in self-defence,” he wrote. “They voted to put the brakes on the relentless, eight-year-long assault not just on their values, but on their ability to live their lives unmolested without having radical progressives attempt to force some newly invented ideology down their throat or hang some new ‘phobia’ label around their necks or garnish their wages.”

    While I definitely agree that I don’t want to be forced to follow some new ideology, I’m also quite tired of being held back by the just-as-damaging old ideologies that lead to stupid laws that oppress actions that others find morally wrong while others are completely fine with (pretty much every vice crime) even down to the mundane but equally annoying and stupid “you can’t buy liquor until noon on Sunday because we have a lock on the wine market in churches until then.”

  11. If Trump was actually consulted, then it’s quite possible that after a lawyer spent ten minutes explaining the compromise that the Little Sisters rejected, he thought they were over-reacting.

    Good news for the Little Sisters though! If they can get *their* lawyer to talk to Trump for ten minutes, he’ll probably change his opinion again.

    But that’s if Yummy had actually taken personal action on it. More then likely it’s that Sessions just doesn’t care. Cause you gotta remember, regardless of what the HSA does, the Justice department can always just drop the case.

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