DENVER, CO, September 26, 2013 ( – The Little Sisters of the Poor have filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking an exemption to the Obama administration’s HHS mandate, which the nuns say would force them to choose between violating their deeply held Catholic beliefs or paying punishing fines.

“Like all of the Little Sisters, I have vowed to God and the Roman Catholic Church that I will treat all life as valuable, and I have dedicated my life to that work,” said Sister Loraine Marie, one of the order’s Superiors. “We cannot violate our vows by participating in the government’s program to provide access to abortion-inducing drugs.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor provide nursing care and daily companionship for the elderly poor at more than 30 residential facilities throughout the United States. Because they employ non-Catholics to help provide that care, the Little Sisters are not covered under the narrow exemption for churches and religious organizations that was added to the HHS mandate after massive public outcry.


“The Sisters should obviously be exempted as ‘religious employers,’ but the government has refused to expand its definition,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund and lead counsel for the Little Sisters. “These women just want to take care of the elderly poor without being forced to violate the faith that animates their work. The money they collect should be used to care for the poor like it always has—and not to pay the IRS.”

The HHS mandate requires all employers to pay for full coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs with no co-pay as part of their company health plans. All three are considered gravely sinful by the Catholic Church.

Catholic employers, the Little Sisters’ lawsuit states, “are forbidden by their religion from participating in the federal government’s regulatory scheme to promote, encourage, and subsidize the use of sterilization, contraceptives, and drugs that cause abortions. The government defendants, however, have imposed regulatory requirements that require the class plaintiffs to provide health benefits for their employees that include coverage for, or access to, contraception, sterilization, abortifacients and related education and counseling.”

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Attorneys for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty are representing the Little Sisters, along with other Catholic employers who participate in the Christian Brothers Benefit Trust for their health care, in a class-action suit filed Tuesday. The Becket Fund is involved in about a dozen similar lawsuits by religiously faithful employers seeking exemptions from the mandate.