Little Sisters Go Before Supreme Court on Wednesday of Holy Week

Justices to finally hear arguments in long-awaited contraceptive mandate case

While Christians prepare to enter the Holy Week triduum — Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday — recalling Christ’s trial before Pontius Pilate, attorneys representing the Little Sisters of the Poor and several other Catholic and Christian nonprofits will be standing before the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The long-awaited hearing on the major challenge to Obamacare’s “contraceptive mandate” has been set for March 23, which this year coincides with Wednesday of Holy Week.

As The Washington Times reported Friday:

Oral arguments in the case, Zubik v. Burwell, will mark the fourth time the justices have weighed in on President Obama’s signature law — the Affordable Care Act — and the second time it’s heard from devout employers who object to the administration’s “contraception mandate.”

The case is officially named for the lead plaintiff, Bishop David Zubik, as the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which he heads, is one of many challengers to the ACA’s mandate that most employers providing health care insurance to their employee include coverage for abortion and contraceptives. The defendant named is Cynthia Burwell.

But some advocates have chosen to put one plaintiff in particular, the Catholic religious order the Little Sisters of the Poor, in the forefront, painting the case in David versus Goliath terms.

“The Little Sisters live by the teachings of the Church and honor the dignity of all human life, especially those deemed weak or ‘worthless’ to some,” says the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the public-interest law firm that is representing the order. “But the federal government’s HHS mandate, which forces ministries to allow the government to use the ministry’s employee health care coverage  to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices, coerces the Little Sisters to violate their religious vows or pay crushing fines.”

The plaintiffs, who also include Catholic dioceses and Christian colleges, reject a number of accommodations the federal government has offered them, saying Washington’s plan would still force them to participate in the provision of morally objectionable drugs and services.