Little Sisters of the Poor to test the real meaning of religious liberty before the Supreme Court

While reading a biography* of James Madison, I came across this quote from the Father of the American Constitution:

The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.

I mention this because the Supreme Court has agreed to hear Little Sisters of the Poor v. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvaniaa case whose heart is whether government can

(Little Sisters of the Poor website)

(Little Sisters of the Poor website)

compel the religious order to provide health insurance contraceptive coverage, which violates their sincerely held religious beliefs and righst of conscience.

Madison wrote the above text as a draft for the for the Bill of Rights and was incorporated into the first liberty enunciated in the First Amendment protecting individuals against government interference, in this case their religious beliefs and matters of conscience. Nothing could be clearer about its intent: Religious liberty and conscience rights were paramount.

Although no right is absolute, the intent of the First Amendment’s religious liberty protection was not to create a religion-free public square, as the radical liberals who demand that everyone, no matter their conscience, pay for Obamacare’s contraceptive coverage.

Although the Trump administration reversed an Obama directive that compelled these violations of conscience, Pennsylvania and California sued the Sisters in federal court, arguing that Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services cannot give the Sisters a religious exemption. In other words, the states argue that the government must violate the Constitution. 

It’s an odd argument to be made by the far end of the political spectrum that (when it comes to Trump) “no one is above the law,” (except, of course, when it comes to illegal aliens).

The Little Sisters of the Poor, founded in 1839 by St. Jeanne Jugan, care for the poor and the elderly in more than 30 countries. Exactly the kind of people the government needs to punish for their beliefs. 

*The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President by Noah Feldman, Random House, 2017. 

My historical novel: Madness: The War of 1812

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