The U.S. Supreme Court has made a move in favor of religious liberty. On Monday, the high court ordered a rehearing of a case in which nuns were being forced to violate their pro-life beliefs by New York’s controversial abortion mandate.
The nuns are part of a coalition of religious groups that had petitioned the high court to protect them from the rule that orders them to violate their devout religious beliefs.
The New York Court of Appeals is now being ordered to reconsider Diocese of Albany v. Emami, a case challenging New York state’s directive requiring employers to cover abortions in their employee health insurance plans.
Each group is challenging New York’s abortion mandate because it believes that life begins at the moment of conception, and to terminate the life of an unborn child is a moral sin.
Two laws firms, Becket and Jones Day, represent the plaintiffs which include the Sisterhood of Saint Mary, an Anglican order of nuns committed to serving others through youth outreach.
“We believe that every person is made in the image of God,” said Mother Miriam of the Sisterhood of Saint Mary. “That’s why we believe in the sanctity of human life, and why we seek to serve those of all faiths—or no faith at all—in our community. We’re grateful that the Supreme Court has taken action in our case and hopeful that, this time around, the New York Court of Appeals will preserve our ability to serve and encourage our neighbors.”
The sisters initially sought relief from the abortion mandate from the state court, but the judicial system upheld the order, according to The Christian Post.
“New York has told us that if we want to hold our beliefs about the sanctity of life, we have to stop serving Non-Anglicans,” Mother Miriam explained. “We cannot compromise on our religious beliefs, or in our service to people of all faiths or no faith at all. That’s why we need relief from the Supreme Court.”
New York’s law, which has a strict religious exemption for groups that mainly serve and hire people of their own religion, eliminates the Sisterhood of St. Mary.
This is because the sisters sponsor a 4-H club and permit local youth to lease some of their Cashmere goats for the purpose of their agricultural outreach ministry.
Additional religious groups that teamed up to challenge the abortion mandate include the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, the First Bible Baptist Church of Hilton, New York, and Catholic Charities.
“New York clearly learned nothing from the federal government’s own attempts to force nuns to pay for contraceptives and is now needlessly threatening charities because they believe in the dignity and humanity of every human person,” said Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket.
“Punishing faith groups for ministering to their local communities is cruel and counterproductive. We are thankful that the Supreme Court won’t allow the New York Court of Appeals’ bad ruling to be the last word on the right of religious ministries to serve New Yorkers of all faiths,” he added.
The Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger, bishop of the Diocese of Albany, New York expressed his gratitude that the case will now receive further review.
“We are gratified and grateful that the Supreme Court has recognized the serious constitutional concerns over New York State’s heavy-handed abortion mandate on religious employers,” he explained.
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