The Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns that staffs nursing homes, is suing the government in order not to be required to fill out a form that would exempt them from having to provide contraception coverage for their insured employees. To do so would provide the employees with a “permission slip” to obtain the coverage directly from their insurance company. At least that’s how their lawyer at the Becket Fund characterized it in the Washington Post the other day.
Over at the National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters begs to differ, and by my lights has much the better of the argument. His analogy, not perfect but with much less of a limp, is that the Little Sisters are like conscientious objectors, whose exercise of the right not to go to war does not mean giving the government a permission slip to draft others in their place.
Amidst the back and forth, it’s worth taking a moment to consider what the Little Sisters would like to be the case. So far as I can see, what they want is to deny their employees contraception coverage. They are claiming a religious right to be able to do so. A good legal argument can be made that this would violate the religious rights of the employees. The larger question has to do with the extent to which those in charge should be allowed to impose their religious convictions on those who work for them.