Denver nuns take opposition to contraception coverage to court

(Photo: AP/Brennan Linsley)
<p>Mother Patricia Mary walks in the hallway at the Mullen Home for the Aged, run by Little Sisters of the Poor in Denver. </p>
Photo: Little Sisters of the Poor at court
Several members of the Little Sisters of the Poor were outside the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

A Denver-based chapter of nuns argued they should not have to participate in contraception coverage in any way before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday morning.

Under the rules of the Affordable Care Act for religious nonprofits, the Little Sisters of the Poor is not required to offer contraception coverage. But the group is required to tell the federal government about its objection. The federal government then arranges for female employees to get that coverage through another route.

But the Little Sisters’ attorney, Daniel Blomberg, says that by notifying the government, the nuns would be complicit in something they consider sinful. Mark Rienzi, also representing the Little Sisters, said the government could create tax credits or other direct pay mechanisms to cover birth control for women whose religious employers opt out.

Adam Jed, an attorney for the federal government, argued that just filling out a form would not be a substantial burden on the nuns’ exercise of religion. Furthermore, he said that the U.S. Supreme Court has found the government has a compelling interest in making contraception available to women without forcing female employees to do anything extra for the benefit.

After the hearing, Sister Loraine Marie Maguire said her sisters are at risk of major fines if they choose to disobey federal rules.

"It is a choice that violates our nation’s historic commitment to ensure that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives," she said.

This case is one of dozens filed nationwide by different religious institutions. All of them dispute different aspects of the government rules for contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.