High and mighty judges decide what is law and scripture

Attorney Mark Rienzi, who represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, speaks outside the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Denver. (AP photo via WSJ)

Some judges don’t just practice law, they are also Talmudic scholars — better capable of determining matters of conscience than adherents of the religion itself.

The Little Sisters of the Poor in Denver sued to avoid complying with Obamacare’s mandate that all insurance provide contraceptives and refused to comply with the so-called opt-out contract in which their insurer is required to cover birth control for free. They essentially argued that signing the contract made them complicit in a sinful act.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week: “Although Plaintiffs allege the administrative tasks required to opt out of the Mandate make them complicit in the overall delivery scheme, opting out instead relieves them from complicity. Furthermore, these de minimis administrative tasks do not substantially burden religious exercise for the purposes of RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act).”

The Little Sisters’ consciences and souls are of no consequence.

Mark Rienzi, the lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor, said in a statement: “It is a national embarrassment that the world’s most powerful government insists that, instead of providing contraceptives through its own existing exchanges and programs, it must crush the Little Sisters’ faith and force them to participate. Untold millions of people have managed to get contraceptives without involving nuns, and there is no reason the government cannot run its programs without hijacking the Little Sisters and their health plan.”

If they refuse to sign the opt-out contract, each of their shelters is subject to fines of $2.5 million a year. That’ll really make them poor.

“In other words, the Little Sisters believe they are commissioning a moral transgression,” a Wall Street Journal observes in an editorial under the headline, “Big Brother of the Poor.” “The Tenth Circuit is telling them, no, the opt out is ‘unremarkable.’ Yet standard judicial practice is to refrain from reaching unresolvable questions of theology or ethics, and RFRA was written to give the benefit of the doubt to the faithful.”

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby the Supreme Court observed: “The Hahns and Greens believe that providing the coverage demanded by the HHS (Health and Human Services) regulations is connected to the destruction of an embryo in a way that is sufficient to make it immoral for them to provide the coverage. This belief implicates a difficult and important question of religion and moral philosophy, namely, the circumstances under which it is wrong for a person to perform an act that is innocent in itself but that has the effect of enabling or facilitating the commission of an immoral act by another. Arrogating the authority to provide a binding national answer to this religious and philosophical question, HHS and the principal dissent in effect tell the plaintiffs that their beliefs are flawed. For good reason, we have repeatedly refused to take such a step.”

This case is surely headed to the Supreme Court where it should stand up for the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

Gary Varvel cartoon

30 comments on “High and mighty judges decide what is law and scripture

  1. Nyp says:

    What rot.

  2. Another convincing argument from Big Brother.

  3. Nyp says:

    Hobby Lobby and its follow-on specifically permitted the opt-out approach taken here.
    There is a good reason why no appellate court has accepted these stupid “religious liberty” arguments.

  4. Nyp says:

    In order not to have birth control for their employees covered in their group insurance plans all they have to do is say that they don’t want birth control covered in their group plan.
    That’s it.
    Some “big brother”.

  5. Nyp says:

    Another 2d Amendment moment today – this time in Tennessee.

  6. Steve says:

    Nyp jumps to conclusions…again.

    (Norman Juster described it well.)

  7. Rincon says:

    Unless someone can show me where it is reported otherwise, what I am reading says nyp is right. All they have to do is opt out. If so, how would that make them complicit? http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/247850-court-rules-nuns-group-must-comply-with-obamacare-birth-control-mandate

  8. The opt-out contract explicitly hands the duty to another party, making the sisters complicit in the transaction.

  9. In Tennessee: U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said officials were treating the attacks as an “act of domestic terrorism.” Two law enforcement sources told CBS News that the shooting suspect was identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.

  10. Like Fort Hood, the soldiers were probably unarmed.

  11. Rincon says:

    “The opt-out contract explicitly hands the duty to another party, making the sisters complicit in the transaction” Using this pseudologic, a conscientious objector is complicit if the army gives him a discharge.

  12. Speaking of pseudologic.

  13. Steve says:

    Rincon, that is not possible. We have an all volunteer service. There can be no such thing as a “conscientious objector” today.

  14. Steve says:

    Yep, Nyp jumped to the “island of Conclusions”
    There is no gun law anywhere that could have kept that guy from getting what he wanted and used to kill those Marines.

    The swim back from that island is long and cold, hope you enjoy it!

  15. Rincon says:

    A Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center sounds like it may have been an office building where armed workers would not be likely. I find it interesting that you highlight the victims being unarmed. Arming everyone seems like a theoretical approach that might actually work, but why ignore the success that Europe, Australia and Japan have maintaining extremely low murder rates in societies where hardly anyone is armed?

  16. Steve says:

    Very different cultures in those places, Rincon.
    The changes you want would mean a real sea change in this culture. Not gonna happen here, even Bernie Sanders understands that!

    Can’t shove the djinn back in it’s lamp. Have to learn how to live with it, on it’s terms.

  17. Rincon says:

    Ah yes, it’s all too hard to change. Somehow, their culture magically turned out better than ours (in this respect). Nothing to learn from it though. Just continue to let everyone (and I do mean everyone) have their guns and do nothing else at all. A cop out if I’ve ever heard one. And what changes do you think I want? I’m not for increased gun control, except to remove the gun show loophole.

  18. Steve says:

    cop out?

    Even Bernie Sanders understands the reality! He voted 100% of the time against that very legislation, Rincon. Because his constituents in Vermont wanted him to vote it down.

    And by many measures, Vermont is considered the most “socialist” state in the union..

    cop out, indeed. Reality bites….. hard…in your case.

  19. Rincon says:

    Fine, we disagree about the gun show loophole. Now, why is the United States so much more violent than its peers? Any theories from anyone? Do we just ignore it?

  20. Rincon says:

    “Rincon, that is not possible. We have an all volunteer service. There can be no such thing as a “conscientious objector” today.” I should have used the past tense The argument still holds. By refusing to take part, there can be no complicity, unless they give a wink and nod, which is clearly not the case.

  21. Steve says:

    “past tense”

    In other words, your argument no longer holds water.

    The US more violent? Russia, when it had control of the Soviet Union suppressed ALL news about serial killers and gun violence.
    Perhaps the US is simply a more informed and open place. Not necessarily more violent just more honest. Because, you see, your argument on this matter is about guns used in acts of violence rather than all violent acts.

  22. Steve says:

    From the UN (Not your typical “right wingnuttery organization) The United Nations.
    Pretty clear the USA is NOT “so much more violent than its peers” The USA is actually prettly low on the list.
    And this is just homicides…not ALL violence or even ALL violent crime.

    Click to access Map_1.1.pdf

  23. Rincon says:

    The moral argument regarding whether they are complicit is timeless. Past tense here is irrelevant.

    I specifically said Europe, Japan and Australia. The word peers referred back to them. If you look at the UN map, I am correct. The crime rate of Russia is unknown, so there’s no point in bothering with them.

    You’re picking at the edges and avoiding the thrust of the argument. The fact is, there are a large number of nations with violent crime and/or murder rates far lower than ours and we could stand to learn from them. Disputing which nations are or are not part of that is not productive. so before you start nitpicking, I hereby remove Europe in my statement and substitute with, “all European nations with violent crime rates lower than ours”. My question remains unanswered.

  24. Winston Smith says:

    “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” – Thomas Jefferson

  25. Patrick says:

    Thomas Jefferson said some REALLY dumb things to go along with some brilliant things. But go figure, the guy seemed to love hearing himself talk right?

    There is not a single tax in the world, that might be imposed, that a man wouldn’t object to as “sinful or tyrannical”. But, as everyone but the most extreme understands, taxes are a necessary, if distasteful thing.

  26. Steve says:

    “Past tense here is irrelevant.”


  27. Rincon says:

    I assume Winston, that you’re referring to the birth control thing. If it’s tyrannical in this case, doesn’t similar logic apply to many of our government functions? What if I don’t want a standing army? Is it tyrannical to use my taxes to pay for one? It’s called the will of the majority.

  28. Steve says:

    Or the tyranny of the majority, which fits much better in the case headlined in this thread.

    I dare anyone to claim Nuns are a majority!

  29. Rincon says:

    Everything can be construed as tyranny of the majority. Besides, as I’ve said, if they can opt out, then it’s their own messed up thinking that causes the problem. As with Muslims, the government’s job is not to entertain the beliefs of every religious fanatic.

  30. Steve says:

    On the other hand, Muslims, are a majority…just not here (yet).

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