An order of Roman Catholic nuns does not qualify "a religious organization," according to an official at one of the top abortion groups in the country who believes the nuns have "a secular mission," and thus should be required to provide contraception to their employees.
NARAL vice president Donna Crane made the comments while discussing the Little Sisters of the Poor, whose lawsuit against Obamacare's contraception mandate is pending before the Supreme Court.
"The Little Sisters of the Poor is a good example because they employ people of all faiths and no faith, and the mission that they undertake serves people of all faiths and no faith," Crane said Friday morning on CSPAN's Washington Journal. "This is not a religious enterprise, this is very much a social service organization."
That understanding of religious activity comports with the original religious exemption that President Obama's team devised when first he announced that Obamacare would require insurance policies to provide free birth control. Obama softened his rhetoric under pressure from churches and the Roman Catholic bishops, but didn't substantially change the religious exemption policy, which has since produced a series of lawsuits.
The nuns countered that everything they do as a religious order stems from their Christian beliefs. "We're consecrated women in the church," Sister Constance Veit, the Little Sisters of the Poor communications director, told The Washington Examiner. "Christ is the center and the reason for everything we do and we care for the elderly because we see Jesus Christ is the core. To say we're not religious….our whole lives are based on our relationship with Christ."
Crane's views have more traction with the federal government. The HHS regulation mandating free contraception defines a "religious employer" as a group that primarily employs and serves people of a given religion. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops argued, when the rule was released, that most religious organizations and people wouldn't qualify for an exemption under such terms.
"Under such inexplicably narrow criteria — criteria bearing no reasonable relation to any legitimate (let alone compelling) government purpose — even the ministry of Jesus and the early Christian Church would not qualify as 'religious,' because they did not confine their ministry to their co-religionists or engage only in a preaching ministry," the bishops wrote in a public comment. "In effect, the exemption is directly at odds with the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which Jesus teaches concern and assistance for those in need, regardless of faith differences."
Crane made just such an argument on Friday. "If they're not a religious organization, and they're not, they're carrying out a secular mission, it's not right that they should be able to impose those views on someone else," she said.