Little Sister on Religious Freedom Lawsuit: We Have No Choice But to See it Through to End
By Lauretta Brown | January 25, 2016 | 1:36 PM EST
Sister Constance Veit, communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor.(AP photo.)
(CNSNews.com) – Sister Constance Veit, one of the Little Sisters of the Poor in attendance at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union, told CNSNews.com that a part of the speech that affected her was when he “expressed the desire for respect for all faiths in the same paragraph as he talked about Pope Francis — so it was just my prayer that it would all be a reality.”
The Little Sisters of the Poor are part of the Supreme Court case Zubik v. Burwell, which will decide whether the government can force the Little Sisters and other Christian organizations to go against their religious beliefs and cooperate with a federal mandate, issued under Obamacare, which requires almost all health care plans to cover abortion-inducing drugs and devices, as well as sterilizations and contraceptives.
To pay for or support in conscience the use of such products and services is contrary to Catholic moral teaching.
Sister Veit, communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor in the United States, spoke with CNSNews.com at the March for Life rally on Friday, Jan. 22, where she and several other sisters came out on stage to join in prayer with those marching.
“We always try to take part in the March for Life just to show our solidarity with those who are defending the lives of the unborn because all human life is sacred,” Sister Veit said. “Although we focus on the end of life as Little Sisters of the Poor, it’s all a continuum so we just like to be part of the movement.”
Sister Veit added that, “today we’re also here because of our lawsuit currently before the Supreme Court over the HHS mandate just to ask people to pray for us and support our efforts in that case.”
The Little Sisters of the Poor run homes in the United States and more than 30 countries around the world to care for the elderly poor. The religious order was founded in France in 1839 by Jeanne Jugan, who was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XVI.
Sister Veit and Sister Loraine Maguire were both invited by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to attend President Obama’s State of the Union earlier this month.
“One part that did really touch me was when he brought up Pope Francis,” Sister Veit said of the president’s address. “He actually expressed the desire for respect for all faiths in the same paragraph as he talked about Pope Francis — so it was just my prayer that it would all be a reality.”
Some of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a worldwide Catholic religious order that aids the elderly poor. (AP)
“We need to reject any politics — any politics — that targets people because of race or religion,” President Obama said in his Jan. 12 State of the Union. “Let me just say this. This is not a matter of political correctness. This is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity, and our openness, and the way we respect every faith.”
“His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot that I’m standing on tonight,” said Obama, “that ‘to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.’”
Overall, Sister Veit described the evening as “a wonderful experience.”
“We were invited to a reception at Paul Ryan’s office and we were able to meet people from a whole spectrum of concerns and probably political views who were all dedicated to caring for the poor,” she said, adding, “we met the little four-year-old boy who had donated to the servicemen, so it was just a really wonderful experience to meet all those good people.”
As for the Sisters’ lawsuit against the Obamacare mandate, Sister Veit described it as “a matter of religious liberty,” in which the Sisters have “no choice but to see it through to the end.”
Plan B label that says one of the ways it works is
by preventing the “attachment of a fertilized egg to
the uterus (implantation).”
“It’s really a matter of religious liberty for us,” Sister Veit emphasized. “The issue happens to be over contraception and abortifacient drugs. But, you know, Catholic teaching is very clear on contraception, abortion, and so we’re being mandated to facilitate the provision of those services to our employees and even though the government came up with what they call the accommodation it’s not just–if we were to sign that, it’s not just a declaration that we won’t cooperate, it’s actually allowing them to take over our health plan and insert those services into it. So that’s just something that we can’t accept.”
“The reason we’ve taken it so far is that the fines being imposed on us would represent $70 million dollars across our homes in the United States, so that’s an impossible amount for us,” she explained. “If it was some small amount maybe we would say okay, we’ll pay the fine and stick to our beliefs. But that kind of money is just impossible. So we really have no choice but to see it through to the end.”
The Little Sisters rely increasingly on community donations to run their homes for the elderly.
The Sisters are represented in their lawsuit by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. They have seen many outpourings of support, including a visit from Pope Francis to their Washington home in September and an amicus curiae brief filed by 207 members of Congress on their behalf to the Supreme Court.