Press Release

Calif. AG fights to silence Little Sisters of the Poor Oakland court hearing will decide if lawsuit can exclude Catholic nuns and end their religious exemption to the new HHS mandate

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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Little Sisters California Rally 1

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Little Sisters of the Poor were back in court today to defend themselves against a lawsuit by Attorney General of California Xavier Becerra, who is suing to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption from a Health and Human Services rule. Becerra has argued that the Little Sisters shouldn’t be able to defend their rights in this lawsuit. Before the hearing, nearly fifty people attended a rally outside the Oakland court in support of the Little Sisters. 

In early October, HHS issued a new rule that protects religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor from providing services that violate their faith like the week-after pill. This meant their four-year legal ordeal was close to an end, yet shortly after, the state of California sued to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption. Represented by Becket, the Little Sisters went back to court to ensure that they can continue their vital ministry of caring for the elderly poor without violating their faith. 

“We pray that soon this trying time will be over; that the court will rule as the Supreme Court ruled last year saying the government doesn’t need us to provide these services to women. As Little Sisters of the Poor, all we want is to follow our calling of serving the elderly poor,” said Mother Maria Christine of the Little Sisters of the Poor (watch her full statement here.)  

The Little Sisters spent the last four years battling the HHS mandate that would have forced them to either violate their faith by providing services like the week-after pill in their healthcare plan, or pay millions in fines. Following an earlier ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, in October HHS admitted that it had been wrong to fight the Little Sisters and issued a new rule that finally exempts them and other religious non-profits. The government had long exempted big businesses—such as Exxon, Chevron and Pepsi—and even its own health care plans. California never sued the Obama administration for creating these exemptions that reach tens of millions more people than the Little Sisters’ exemption.   

“Women like the Little Sisters of the Poor do not need more bureaucrats pushing them around. They should be allowed their day in court to argue for their rights, and they should be allowed to practice their faith in peace,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor.  

Oral argument took place in federal district court in Oakland, California to decide if the protection for the Little Sisters will stand, and whether the Little Sisters will be allowed to defend it in this court. A decision is likely by the end of the year.  

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 


 Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court.For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians(read more here).