- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2016

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday offered a full-throated defense of nuns who will challenge Obamacare’s birth control rules before the Supreme Court this week, saying there is “no good reason” to force people who embody public service to violate their faith.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a charity that cares for the elderly poor, says the administration didn’t go far enough in carving it out of regulations that require employers to cover a series of FDA-approved contraceptives or else pay crippling fines.

“The last thing the federal government should do it make their jobs harder,” Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said of the sisters. “But that, unfortunately, is exactly what the administration is doing.”

After lengthy negotiations, the administration developed an “accommodation” that requires faith-based charities who object to contraceptives to submit a form to the government or their insurers to earn an exemption, so that insurers or third-party administrators can then step in to provide the controversial coverage.

The sisters and other nonprofits say the mere act of signing the form makes them complicit in sin. On Wednesday, they will ask the justices to fault the opt-out mechanism as an infringement on their religious liberty.

In a floor speech, Mr. Ryan said the accommodation is a “fig leaf” that falls short, particularly since the administration fully exempted houses of worship and employers with grandfathered plans.

“There is no good reason for any of this,” he said.

The case, Zubik v. Burwell, will be the fourth time the court has weighed in on President Obama’s signature law — the Affordable Care Act — and the second time it’s refereed a dispute over its so-called “contraception mandate.”

The rules have been controversial from the start because some religions hold that artificial contraceptives are sinful. In particular, they object to morning-after pills that they equate with abortion.

The Justice Department argues that if the nonprofits prevail, it would set in motion a slippery slope in which objectors refuse to support government policy, then bar officials from getting someone else to fill the gap.

The nonprofits lost most of their cases at the lower appeals court level, though one circuit court did side with them.

The faith-based charities and colleges say if the government really wants to provide contraceptives, it can pay for the drugs and devices themselves through Obamacare’s exchanges.

“Today, I stand in support of the Little Sisters,” Mr. Ryan said.

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