“If you’re suing nuns, you’re doing something really wrong,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said to laughter from the crowd at the 2014 Values Voter Summit on Friday.
Cruz, who has been sending signals that he may run for president in 2016, was referring to the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, one of a group of Catholic nonprofits that has been challenging the Obama administration’s birth control benefit included in the Affordable Care Act.
“Right now, the federal government is suing the Little Sisters of the Poor to try to force Catholic nuns to pay for abortion-inducing drugs,” Cruz said.
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Cruz made two patently false statements with this remark.
The federal government is not suing the Little Sisters of the Poor. The exact opposite is true: The Little Sisters sued the federal government; they are plaintiffs in a case that seeks to challenge the religious accommodation to the birth control benefit.
Second, the Obama administration is not trying to “force Catholic nuns to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.” The case deals with contraception, which does not cause abortion. This includes emergency contraception and IUDs, the specific forms of contraception that the religious owners of Hobby Lobby successfully fought, at the Supreme Court, not to have covered in employee-earned insurance plans.
Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the rule that requires employers to offer contraceptive coverage at no additional cost in their health insurance plans. Little Sisters is a religiously affiliated nonprofit, which is different, but is still offered an accommodation—if they inform the administration of their religious objections, a third party can provide their employees the required coverage so that the nonprofit doesn’t have to be involved.
But the group is claiming that even this requirement is too burdensome on their religious liberties.
Suggesting that nuns would have to “pay for” birth control is also misleading. The nuns are objecting to informing the government of their objections because that indirectly leads to women getting contraception access at all—not to paying for it.
Cruz called the outcome of the Hobby Lobby case a “phenomenal victory for religious liberty,” but said that he found the 5-4 vote troubling because one vote going differently could have led to a different outcome.
Cruz also told the story of Miriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese Christian woman in attendance at the conference, who refused to renounce her faith despite being sentenced to death in Sudan.
Cruz spoke of how Ibrahim was “thrown into a pit, giving birth to her daughter with her legs in leg irons.”
The point of his story was to praise Ibrahim’s faith and demonstrate that through God, Christians can triumph over great adversity.
Cruz failed to note, however, that female prisoners are routinely forced to give birth in shackles in the United States. For instance, it happened in Arizona in 2009 to Miram Mendiola-Martinez; a U.S. District judge threw out her lawsuit over being shackled during the birth of her child.