Heaven help us. Paul Laxalt, Attorney General of the State of Nevada, has proudly announced he’s filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell.
“Little Sisters of the Poor is an organization of Roman Catholic women dedicated to serving the poor. The Little Sisters and co-petitioners sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in response to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. The mandate requires religious nonprofits such as the Little Sisters to provide employees with all available forms of contraception at no cost. Facing hefty fines for non-compliance, a number of these groups have sought U.S. Supreme Court review of their case.
“Religious organizations serve our communities in countless ways, and their contributions should be supported, not impeded by the government,” said Laxalt. “These organizations should not be fined for living in accordance with their sincerely held religious convictions. This brief encourages the Supreme Court to take the necessary steps toward ensuring that our government and our courts do not force people of faith to violate their religious beliefs.” [Laxalt]
Here’s what he’s jumping into:
“On July 14, 2014, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision denying the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religiously affiliated nonprofits’ request for a stay. The Court found: “The accommodation relieves Plaintiffs from complying with the Mandate and guarantees they will not have to provide, pay for, or facilitate contraceptive coverage. Plaintiffs do not “trigger” or otherwise cause contraceptive coverage because federal law, not the act of opting out, entitles plan participants and beneficiaries to coverage. 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.” In July 2015, the plaintiffs appealed this case to the Supreme Court.” [KFF.org]
In short, the Little Sisters have a Church Plan. The Church Plan doesn’t cover contraception. This is accommodated under the exemptions to the Affordable Care Act. Their plan does not have to “provide, pay for or otherwise facilitate contraceptive coverage.” What’s the question? They can opt out of the ACA provisions – but, they argue the mere act of opting out makes them “party to the scheme?”
This gets even better – because entangled in the case is the question of whether or not the Little Sisters of the Poor (or the Christian Brothers) can prevent their employees from getting insurance covering contraception from a third party. [AU]
The Kaiser Foundation offers this handy chart on the exemptions from the provisions of the Affordable Care Act:
Thus far the provisions of the ACA have been upheld. Contrary to the anti-contraceptionists, the courts have held that the law doesn’t unduly burden anyone, and they can opt out by requesting an exemption. Period. Of course, that didn’t prevent the Little Sisters from availing themselves of the funding and efforts of the arch-conservative Becket Fund.
Making this entire case even more incredible is the fact that as of August 2014, the government provided a second accommodation for religious non-profit organizations which as of that date only needed to “write a letter to the government in order to be relieved of any obligation to provide contraceptive coverage.” [AU] A letter. One single letter.
So that an exempt religious organization doesn’t have to write one single, one paragraph letter, the Attorney General of the state of Nevada signed on to an exceptionally spurious, often downright illogical amicus brief with his fellow Tea Party, Radical Right, Ultra-Right Wing anti-contraception amigos.