Why Is the Trump Administration Still Going After Nuns?

April 26, 2017

by Jon Schweppe


When he was a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to protect the First Amendment and end the Obama Administration’s war against religious liberty. He specifically assured Catholics in a letter in October of last year that he would stop the federal government from suing the Little Sisters of the Poor over the Obamacare HHS mandate, promising that lawsuits like that were “a hostility to religious liberty you will never see in a Trump Administration.”

If he still intends to honor that promise, he has some work to do.

As Tim Carney at the Washington Examiner reports, the federal government is still in the business of suing nuns:

Nearly 100 days into the Trump administration, the official position of the federal government is still that Uncle Sam can force private employers, against their conscience and their religious beliefs, to provide insurance coverage for all forms of contraception, including sterilization and morning-after drugs that can act as abortifacients.

On Monday, the Department of Justice — under the control of Attorney General Jeff Sessions — effectively asked federal courts to keep alive its defense of the Obama position that Christian colleges must provide such coverage. This is irreconcilable with President Trump’s professed opposition to the mandate and its trampling of religious liberty.

It is unlikely that President Donald Trump or Attorney General Jeff Sessions want this to happen. But as Carney explains, the Administration bears at least some culpability here because of its lack of urgency in properly staffing the Justice Department:

One explanation is that the DOJ attorneys who filed the motion Monday are liberal Democratic lawyers who have spent years in the legal war against the religious employers seeking relief from Obama’s mandate…

Obama-Clinton liberal lawyers are the Trump administration’s lawyers.

Meanwhile, there’s no adult supervision. Trump has nominated a Solicitor General, Noel Francisco, but he hasn’t been confirmed. Trump hasn’t nominated an assistant attorney general to head the civil division. Also, he hasn’t installed the rank-and-file DOJ lawyers who could take the case out of the hands of the liberal lawyers currently handling it.

With new attorneys in place, Trump’s DOJ could end the assault on religious liberty, dropping the appeals in the cases the Obama administration lost, and possibly drafting a consent decree to disarm the cases where the Obama administration had won.

We will continue to follow this development. Let us hope that this is simply an oversight that the Trump Administration will soon correct.

Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0


Jon Schweppe is the Director of Government Affairs for American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @JonSchweppe

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