Monday, May 16, 2016: The United States Supreme Court made a significant decision today, remanding to the lower courts a challenge brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor to the Obama Administration’s attempt to force religiously affiliated institutions – like Ave Maria University – to act contrary to their rights to religious freedom. The unanimous decision by the Court is an important win for the Little Sisters and the cause of religious freedom. The ruling should preserve the injunction issued by the federal court in Ave Maria’s case that prevents the federal government from imposing taxes or penalties on the University by its decision to not comply with the HHS contraception and abortifacient mandate.
Ave Maria University has been fighting the federal government on this matter since 2012. Under the leadership of President Jim Towey, Ave Maria University was among the very first entities to challenge the legality of the contraception mandate. The Obama administration has repeatedly tried to involve Ave Maria University, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and other men and women of faith in activity that is in direct conflict with the teaching of the Catholic Church.
The University is represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in its case which is on hold in the Eleventh Circuit. Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, made the following statement: “We are very encouraged by the Court’s decision, which is an important win for the Little Sisters. The Court has recognized that the government changed its position. It is crucial that the Justices unanimously ordered the government not to impose these fines and indicated that the government doesn’t need any notice to figure out what should now be obvious — the Little Sisters respectfully object. There is still work to be done, but today’s decision indicates that we will ultimately prevail in court.”