That was the sentiment of hundreds of supporters gathered outside and on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., March 23, when they stood in solidarity with the Little Sisters of the Poor as they made their case against the HHS contraception mandate.
In a case known as Zubik v. Burwell, the former being Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik, the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious would be forced to violate their religious beliefs by providing coverage of contraception – some of which act as abortifacients – to their employees.
As oral arguments were being heard by the highest court in the land, supporters from all over the country gathered for a prayer vigil and rally outside.
The Baltimore province of the Little Sisters of the Poor is based in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. St. Martin’s Home for the Aged, one of the nursing homes the sisters operate for the elderly poor, is just inside the Baltimore Beltway.
Supporters of the Little Sisters of the Poor at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., March 23, included 75 students from Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville. (Maureen Cromer/CR Staff)
Three Mount de Sales students – freshman Theresa Balick, her sister, Rebekah, a sophomore and sophomore Monica Wallace – went so far as to write a petition to the Supreme Court Justices in advance of the hearing.
“Whatever decision is made today,” Rebekah Balick said, “is going to set a standard for all similar cases in the future, so we want to make sure our voices are out there and they know where we stand.”
The rally in support of religious freedom included personal testimonies from women religious, hymns, praying of the rosary, and one order of religious women sharing cookies.
After the hearing, the Little Sisters emerged from the Supreme Court with smiles on their faces.
Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor, who resides at their Baltimore home, released a prepared statement to the press.
“We find ourselves in a situation where the government is requiring us to include services in our religious health care plan that violate some of our deepest held religious beliefs as Little Sisters,” she said. “We don’t understand why the government is doing this when there is an easy solution that doesn’t involve us – it can provide these services on the exchanges. It’s also hard to understand why the government is doing this when one third of all Americans aren’t even covered by this mandate, and large corporations like Exxon, Visa, and Pepsi are fully exempt, yet the government threatens us with fines of 70 million dollars per year if we don’t comply.”
The Little Sisters’ support included Archbishop William E. Lori, who traveled to Washington and, after the morning arguments in the Supreme Court, celebrated Mass with the Little Sisters at St. Peter’s on Capitol Hill. The archbishop is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.