Monday, January 06, 2014

Commentary: Little Sisters of the Poor Case Generating Heated Political Debate

The New Year's Eve temporary injunction issued by Justice Sonia Sotomayor to prevent immediate enforcement of the ACA contraceptive coverage mandate compromise against the Little Sisters of the Poor has quickly generated extensive debate.  At one level, the case itself turns on the kind of legal technicalities that usually cause the non-lawyer's eyes to glaze over--the exact wording of the fine print on a government form; the difference between self-insured health plans administered by third party administrators and group health insurance plans offered to employees through insurance companies; and the exemption under ERISA for group health plans that qualify as "church plans."  Yet despite this, the case is becoming the symbol for a much broader, and to some extent uglier, political debate.  Here are two essays from the blogosphere that illustrate the political dimensions that this free exercise issue has taken on:

From American Thinker yesterday, Lloyd Marcus posts an essay titled Will King Obama Throw Nuns into the Lion's Den?, saying in part:
We are witnessing a modern-day version of King Darius ordering that Daniel be thrown into the lion's den for refusing to deny his faith. Displaying deceit characteristic of our Liar-in-Chief, Obama's DOJ have offered the Little Sisters a serpent disguised as an olive branch.
From All Voices yesterday, John Thomas Didymus writes in a post titled Does filling out a contraception mandate exemption form violate Catholic religious rights?:
When properly understood, the Little Sisters’ argument is cynical hairsplitting with the intention of picking a fight with and prolonging confrontation with a government they have identified as an ideological foe.... The confrontational attitude of the Little Sisters illustrates the dog-in-the-manger attitude common to religious ideologues through which they exercise socially disruptive influence. The religious dog-in-the-manger attitude can be summarized as: "If our religion says we can't have it, and then no one should have it".... An extreme form of this pattern of socially disruptive religious chauvinism is expressed by Nigeria's Boko Haram.
Of course, much of the debate is calmer than these examples, but in the highly charged atmosphere surrounding all aspects of the Affordable Care Act, louder voices tend to drown out other more nuanced analyses.