Press Release

Little Sisters ask Supreme Court to protect their ministry to the elderly poor once and for all High Court hears historic telephonic oral argument in Little Sisters of the Poor’s religious exemption case

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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WASHINGTON – The Little Sisters of the Poor made a historic virtual appearance today at the Supreme Court and asked for protection from a coalition of states which seeks to take away their hard-won religious exemption from the HHS contraceptive mandate. In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, after the Little Sisters were twice protected by the Supreme Court and finally granted a religious exemption in 2018, several states dragged the Catholic nuns back to court to defend their ministry. Today, Paul Clement, advocating for the Little Sisters by telephone, asked the Justices to protect the nuns once more and end the Little Sisters’ seven-year legal battle once and for all.

This morning, it was made clear that Pennsylvania takes an even stingier view of the government’s ability to make religious exemptions than the Obama administration did, denying that the Affordable Care Act even gives the government authority to exempt churches.

“We are hopeful that the Court will protect us as it did in 2016 and eager to be rid of this legal trouble which has hung over our ministry like a storm cloud for nearly a decade,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the lives of our residents face a real and imminent threat, we are more eager than ever to be able to care for our residents without being harassed by governments.”

The Little Sisters are an order of Roman Catholic religious sisters who dedicate their lives to serving the elderly poor. In 2011, the federal government issued the HHS contraceptive mandate, which required the Little Sisters to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans or pay millions of dollars in fines. In 2016, the Supreme Court unanimously removed lower court rulings against the Little Sisters and protected them from the IRS fines. HHS then announced a new ruleprotecting religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters. Yet several states, including Pennsylvania and California, immediately sued the federal government to take that protection away, forcing the Little Sisters back to court. After a loss in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the Sisters turned to the High Court to finally put an end to their long legal journey.

“The Court has ruled in the Little Sister’s favor twice before, recognizing what was obvious from the very beginning—that the federal government doesn’t need nuns to help it distribute contraceptives and that forcing them to participate is plainly unconstitutional,” said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket. “We hope that the Supreme Court ends this litigation once and for all.”

Press call information following argument today:

NEW TIME: Today at 12:30 p.m. EDT
646-876-9923 | Pin #: 930-944-5568 | or join
Email questions in advance to

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney,  contact Ryan Colby at  or 202-349-7219.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.