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Do Not Look Away Now!

A Message from the Executive Director
Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dear Friends,

Watching my father’s slow, 13-year descent into Parkinson’s-related illness, dementia and eventual death was a life-changing journey for my entire family. Those years transformed my father’s stocky and muscular body into a bedridden, paralyzed-from-the-neck-down 90-pound-shell. Towards the end, whenever I was with him, I focused on looking into his eyes where, once in a while, I could see his true self and catch a glimpse of his spirit and his sense of humor. Most of the doctors, nurses and visitors treated him with affection, but once in a while, I noticed that some who did not know him before he was ill only saw the shell he had become. It was hard to watch, and I did not blame those who looked away. I also wanted to look away. In fact, in the years that followed my father’s death, I threw away photos I took while he was ill and only kept those which reminded me of the “true” him—pictures where he was healthy, laughing, and surrounded by us.

Last year, I was reminded of this stage in his life while I visited one of the Little Sisters of the Poor’s homes. While the Sisters walked with me through their beautiful light-filled facility, I chatted with some of the elderly residents. There was a woman who stopped me to show me photos of her son who lives a few states away and her grandson who graduates from high school next year. The night before I met her, her husband had passed away in the Sister’s care. He had liver cancer and his wife told me it had been hard for him to let go, so the Sisters sang and held his hand and comforted him until he could. She mentioned he absolutely loved the Sisters (one particular Irish sister had even danced for him because he loved Irish dancing!) and was happy to spend his last days at this home. While she told me this story, I could tell by the way the Sisters looked at her that they saw beyond the shell of her body, that they treated this elderly woman and all the others with the affection one reserves for loved ones.

At the end of the day I drove home to my family. The Sisters—they stay. Day after day. Looking after the elderly. Joyously loving them. Never looking away.

The Sisters tell me they do this happily. In fact, this is all the Sisters want to do: to serve the elderly poor in their homes. Instead, for the last two years, they have been distracted by their lawsuit against the government. And today, for the second time in as many years, we had to ask the Supreme Court to protect them. The Sisters lost their case against the HHS mandate in a lower court. That court issued a 100-page opinion telling the Sisters that their view of morality was wrong. And that they were not “religious enough” to deserve an exemption.

Here is the good news: Every time government agencies have told the Supreme Court that they get to use massive fines to force ministries to provide contraceptives, the Supreme Court has told them they are wrong. We don’t know why they continue to force the Sisters to go to Court. After all, the government has exempted Pepsi and Exxon from the same HHS mandate that it is forcing on the Sisters.

This is discrimination. This is plain wrong.

But the Little Sisters are standing strong. They are true to their mission. They stay with the residents until the very end and they stick to their principles even under severe pressure.

At the Becket Fund, we too are true to our principles and to our clients. So, we are off to the Supreme Court for the Little Sisters. And gladly so! The Sisters’ case is so important—not only for the Sisters and their residents but for all Americans who believe in freedom.

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director

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