Press Release

Supreme Court to Little Sisters: you are free to serve elderly poor without violating faith High Court rules in favor of Catholic nuns for third time

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor 7-2 today, allowing them to continue serving the elderly poor and dying without threat of millions of dollars in fines. In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Little Sisters made their third trip to the Supreme Court, dragged by several states that tried to force Catholic nuns to provide coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. Today’s ruling grants them protection to freely serve the elderly poor without violating their conscience.

Writing for the Court, Justice Thomas held that “For over 150 years, the Little Sisters have engaged in faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother. . . . But for the past seven years, they—like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today’s decision— have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.” The Court held that the federal government was right to protect those beliefs.

“We are overjoyed that, once again, the Supreme Court has protected our right to serve the elderly without violating our faith,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “Our life’s work and great joy is serving the elderly poor and we are so grateful that the contraceptive mandate will no longer steal our attention from our calling.”

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 would have 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 rule protecting 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.

“America deserves better than petty governments harassing nuns. The Court did the right thing by protecting the Little Sisters from an unnecessary mandate that would have gutted their ministry,” said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket. “Governments don’t need nuns to distribute contraceptives. But they do need religious groups to care for the elderly, heal the sick and feed the hungry. These governments all have real work they ought to be doing rather than dividing people with old and unnecessary culture wars.”

Press Call to discuss Supreme Court’s opinions in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James Catholic School v. Biel

Mark Rienzi, president at Becket (Available for interviews)

Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket (Available for interviews)

Today at 11:30 a.m. EDT/8:30 a.m. PDT

Press Call Information:
301-715-8592  | Pin #: 914-1188-8332 | 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.