Senator Lankford Statement on ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’ Supreme Court Oral Arguments
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) issued the following statement on the start of oral arguments today in the Little Sisters of the Poor Supreme Court case (Zubik v. Burwell):
“This case represents a serious concern that many Americans have with their First Amendment rights and the ability to live out their convictions in everyday life. It is not the place of government to determine what a person’s religion requires, and the government cannot justify trampling religious beliefs when there are reasonable accommodations. Religious charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor and faith-based universities like Oklahoma Wesleyan, Oklahoma Baptist, Southern Nazarene, and Mid-America Christian, should not be forced to provide health insurance that violates their deeply held beliefs.”
Lankford also pointed out a Thomas Jefferson statement from two centuries ago, “Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion…”
On January 11, Senator Lankford submitted a bipartisan amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the religious nonprofits and charities challenging Obamacare’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, including the Little Sisters of the Poor. President Pro Tempore and Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT), and Representatives Diane Black (R-TN) and Mike Kelly (R-PA) joined Lankford in leading the congressional effort, which was signed by 207 bipartisan Members of Congress. Senator Hatch was the lead Republican sponsor of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act when it passed Congress in 1993 – by a 97-3 vote in the Senate, and unanimously in the House – and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
The amicus brief argued that religious freedom is a fundamental guarantee of the United States Constitution and, more recently, of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), noting that “Despite RFRA’s command that the religious beliefs of all individuals and organizations be accorded the same deference, HHS has given the religious liberties of religious non-profits second-tier status.” The Court will determine if Obamacare’s employer mandate for non-profit entities to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and contraception is constitutional. In 2014, the Supreme Court held that this mandate violated RFRA as applied to a for-profit corporation.
Four universities from Oklahoma are involved in this case – Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Mid-America Christian University.