Individuals and the Obamacare mandate

Discussion about the Obamacare contraception/abortifacient insurance mandate has centered on the religious liberty of church-related institutions.  But what about the religious liberty of pro-life individuals who own businesses?  That, in fact, is the case before the courts that might have a ruling today.  (I’m on the road so I might have trouble monitoring it.  If anyone hears about a ruling, mention it in a comment.)  Here are details about that case, with a rather chilling statement about how the Obama administration sees religious liberty:

Hercules Industries is a Colorado based corporation that makes heating and air conditioning equipment. Hercules is a family-owned business. Its owners, the Newland brothers — William (pictured), Paul and James — and their sister, Christine Ketterhagen, take their Catholic faith seriously. The business provides good jobs for 265 people and Hercules Industries tries hard to be a good member of the community. The siblings who operate the business have always assumed that they had the right to live according to their faith, like other businesses across our nation.

In those parts of New York City that have a high percentage of residents who are Orthodox or Hassidic Jews, businesses close when the sun sets on Friday and stay closed until sunset on Saturday, in observance of the Sabbath. Kosher butchers do not sell pork and Kosher delis do not make pork sandwiches. This sort of religious freedom is not peripheral to religious Americans of all professions. It is central to their idea of the American dream.

This is consistent with what the Newlands believe. The health benefits packages that Hercules Industries provides to its employees is very generous, but it does not include sterilization, artificial contraception or abortifacients. Individuals who work for the company are free, of course, to obtain these at their own expense or to secure insurance coverage outside the company health plan that covers those types of expenses.

The Newlands have brought suit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for regulations she has promulgated that require that any company employing more than 50 people must include those medical procedures and drugs in the health plan. The Hercules Industry lawsuit states:

The Catholic Church teaches that abortifacient drugs, contraception and sterilization are intrinsic evils. Consequently, the Newlands believe that it would be immoral and sinful for them to intentionally participate in, pay for, facilitate or otherwise support abortifacient drugs, contraception, sterilization, and related education and counseling as would be required by the Mandate, through their inclusion in health insurance coverage they offer at Hercules.

The Obama administration has resisted the Hercules lawsuit by claiming that the company is secular, and therefore entitled to no First Amendment protection, with the Department of Justice telling the court:

The First Amendment Complaint does not allege that the company is affiliated with a formally religious entity such as a church, nor does it allege that the company employs persons of a particular faith. In short, Hercules Industries is plainly a for-profit, secular employer. By definition, a secular employer does not engage in any “exercise of religion.” It is well established that a corporation and its owners are wholly separate entities, and the Court should not permit the Newlands to eliminate that legal separation to impose their personal religious beliefs on the corporate entity or its employees.

via Colorado Company Fights to Maintain Catholic Values.

UPDATE:  The court issued an injunction against the government penalizing the company.  Click here for details.

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About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • James Sarver

    It is not clear from this whether the government position is that no for-profit, secular employer is entitled to an exercise of religion or if this is limited to corporations. What about a sole proprietor?

  • James Sarver

    It is not clear from this whether the government position is that no for-profit, secular employer is entitled to an exercise of religion or if this is limited to corporations. What about a sole proprietor?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    There has to be a bigger point to this. Contraception is just too cheap and easy to get for there to be such a big deal made of expecting employees to buy their own, just like they buy their own Tylenol and vitamins.

    It is like the administration is insisting on this showdown. The bill that Congress passed doesn’t require this. So this is coming from the administration.

    Are we getting to the point that the only limit on the caprice of bureaucrats is the First Amendment? Congress should have to actually go on record voting one way or another and not be able to hid behind bureaucracy.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    There has to be a bigger point to this. Contraception is just too cheap and easy to get for there to be such a big deal made of expecting employees to buy their own, just like they buy their own Tylenol and vitamins.

    It is like the administration is insisting on this showdown. The bill that Congress passed doesn’t require this. So this is coming from the administration.

    Are we getting to the point that the only limit on the caprice of bureaucrats is the First Amendment? Congress should have to actually go on record voting one way or another and not be able to hid behind bureaucracy.

  • Tom Hering

    Companys demand that government stay out of their business. Unless they want something from government that gives them a business advantage. Then they’ll lobby for interference in the private sector.

    If you dance with the devil, he’s gonna step on your feet.

  • Tom Hering

    Companys demand that government stay out of their business. Unless they want something from government that gives them a business advantage. Then they’ll lobby for interference in the private sector.

    If you dance with the devil, he’s gonna step on your feet.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    That’s quite true of major corporations. But small family businesses? Since when have small family businesses had the clout or resources to marshal the force of government in their favor? Hercules is clinging to the First Amendment because, as sg trenchantly suggests, it’s about the only constitutional provision left that sometimes favors the “little guy” in the eyes of the courts.

    Even in local communities, where small businesses would theoretically have access to the levers of government, how many times, in your memory, have the mom-and-pop shops been able to prevent city councils/county boards from offering Wal-Mart millions in incentives, including free land, tax subsidies, new purpose-built roads, etc.?

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    That’s quite true of major corporations. But small family businesses? Since when have small family businesses had the clout or resources to marshal the force of government in their favor? Hercules is clinging to the First Amendment because, as sg trenchantly suggests, it’s about the only constitutional provision left that sometimes favors the “little guy” in the eyes of the courts.

    Even in local communities, where small businesses would theoretically have access to the levers of government, how many times, in your memory, have the mom-and-pop shops been able to prevent city councils/county boards from offering Wal-Mart millions in incentives, including free land, tax subsidies, new purpose-built roads, etc.?

  • Med Student

    “[T]he Court should not permit the Newlands to eliminate that legal separation to impose their personal religious beliefs on the corporate entity or its employees.”
    I’ve seen this argument crop up before in other locations (mostly Facebook), that if you refuse to pay for something for someone else because of your religious beliefs, then that somehow means you’re forcing your religious beliefs on that person. Never mind that it’s the other person trying to force you to violate your beliefs by insisting you buy them something objectionable in the first place, and he/she is perfectly free to buy it with his/her own money, or find a charity to get it from…

  • Med Student

    “[T]he Court should not permit the Newlands to eliminate that legal separation to impose their personal religious beliefs on the corporate entity or its employees.”
    I’ve seen this argument crop up before in other locations (mostly Facebook), that if you refuse to pay for something for someone else because of your religious beliefs, then that somehow means you’re forcing your religious beliefs on that person. Never mind that it’s the other person trying to force you to violate your beliefs by insisting you buy them something objectionable in the first place, and he/she is perfectly free to buy it with his/her own money, or find a charity to get it from…

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    “Hercules Industries is plainly a for-profit, secular employer. ”
    Plainly? For-profit, yes, but “secular?”

    Says who? Says the bullies who want to preclude them from exercising religious freedoms, I guess.

    Our Constitution guarantees a broad freedom of religious expression. It doesn’t say, “except for those whom we determine to be ‘secular.’”

    In effect: “You’re ‘secular’ (because we say so), so you don’t have any religious freedoms.”

    That’s ridiculous.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    “Hercules Industries is plainly a for-profit, secular employer. ”
    Plainly? For-profit, yes, but “secular?”

    Says who? Says the bullies who want to preclude them from exercising religious freedoms, I guess.

    Our Constitution guarantees a broad freedom of religious expression. It doesn’t say, “except for those whom we determine to be ‘secular.’”

    In effect: “You’re ‘secular’ (because we say so), so you don’t have any religious freedoms.”

    That’s ridiculous.

  • Cincinnatus

    Mike: That’s a good point. Whether an organization is “secular” or not is only relevant when assessing its status as a 501c3.

  • Cincinnatus

    Mike: That’s a good point. Whether an organization is “secular” or not is only relevant when assessing its status as a 501c3.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    The porn industry is huge and growing, and an important part of our economy – indispensable, really. Going forward, all grocery stores must stock copies of Playboy, or at least pay for a third party to stock copies across the street so that our citizens can access this basic human right.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    The porn industry is huge and growing, and an important part of our economy – indispensable, really. Going forward, all grocery stores must stock copies of Playboy, or at least pay for a third party to stock copies across the street so that our citizens can access this basic human right.

  • rlewer

    Beyond that, where did the government get the power to decide what is in anyone’s health care insurance?

  • rlewer

    Beyond that, where did the government get the power to decide what is in anyone’s health care insurance?

  • Cincinnatus

    What do you mean by “government,” rlewer? Individual states have had this power for decades, understood as implicit within the broad “police powers” possessed by each state.

    This is why most states already have extensive health insurance mandates.

  • Cincinnatus

    What do you mean by “government,” rlewer? Individual states have had this power for decades, understood as implicit within the broad “police powers” possessed by each state.

    This is why most states already have extensive health insurance mandates.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    QWell, here’s the news: http://www.lifenews.com/2012/07/27/obama-hhs-abortion-mandate-halted-by-federal-court/

    “A federal court issued an order Friday that halts enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate against a Colorado family-owned business while an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit challenging the mandate continues in court.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    QWell, here’s the news: http://www.lifenews.com/2012/07/27/obama-hhs-abortion-mandate-halted-by-federal-court/

    “A federal court issued an order Friday that halts enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate against a Colorado family-owned business while an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit challenging the mandate continues in court.”

  • DonS

    That is good news for this family, and hopefully sets a precedent for others to get the same relief until the merits of the issue are heard.

    Sadly, the ACLU is siding with the government in this case — they only champion rights that align with their liberal views, apparently.

  • DonS

    That is good news for this family, and hopefully sets a precedent for others to get the same relief until the merits of the issue are heard.

    Sadly, the ACLU is siding with the government in this case — they only champion rights that align with their liberal views, apparently.

  • rlewer

    The states have broad “police powers” to tells us what has to be in our insurance policies? That is scary. What else might “police powers” include?

  • rlewer

    The states have broad “police powers” to tells us what has to be in our insurance policies? That is scary. What else might “police powers” include?

  • helen

    Planned Parenthood wrote that “mandate”. Congress didn’t.
    If they get away with abortifacient drugs, abortions will be next.

    Churches which teach moral law are in the minority; but “minority status” isn’t going to protect Christians…. (Muslims and ultra Orthodox Jews, yes).

  • helen

    Planned Parenthood wrote that “mandate”. Congress didn’t.
    If they get away with abortifacient drugs, abortions will be next.

    Churches which teach moral law are in the minority; but “minority status” isn’t going to protect Christians…. (Muslims and ultra Orthodox Jews, yes).

  • Fws

    1)There is no hhs mandate for abortifascent drugs.
    (Cf: lcms website html on the hhs mandate.)

    2)There is no hhs mandate for sterilizations.

    We are taking about ONLY birth control pills here.
    Dont we have an obligation to be scrupulously honest here?

  • Fws

    1)There is no hhs mandate for abortifascent drugs.
    (Cf: lcms website html on the hhs mandate.)

    2)There is no hhs mandate for sterilizations.

    We are taking about ONLY birth control pills here.
    Dont we have an obligation to be scrupulously honest here?

  • Fws

    A jehovahs witness business wont provide insurance that provides for blood transfusions.
    A seventh day adventist business will only provide insurance with birthing services if they can circumcise all newborns.
    An orthodox business will not provide insurance that offers services during the sabbath.
    A wiccan business will not buy insurance that offers services in any hospital that has crucifixes.
    A scientologist business will not provide insurance that covers any psychotropic drugs or prozac like medicines.
    A christian runs a motel and refuses to lodge two men or a man and woman who can not prove they are married in a church.
    A christian restaurant run by a graduate of bob jones university refuses to serve mixed race couples and gays.
    A lutheran adoption service refuses to adopt to non lutheran couples.
    Discuss.

  • Fws

    A jehovahs witness business wont provide insurance that provides for blood transfusions.
    A seventh day adventist business will only provide insurance with birthing services if they can circumcise all newborns.
    An orthodox business will not provide insurance that offers services during the sabbath.
    A wiccan business will not buy insurance that offers services in any hospital that has crucifixes.
    A scientologist business will not provide insurance that covers any psychotropic drugs or prozac like medicines.
    A christian runs a motel and refuses to lodge two men or a man and woman who can not prove they are married in a church.
    A christian restaurant run by a graduate of bob jones university refuses to serve mixed race couples and gays.
    A lutheran adoption service refuses to adopt to non lutheran couples.
    Discuss.

  • helen

    If a corporation is “a person” according to the Supreme Court, why can’t it be “a Catholic person” with all that entails, (instead of just a Republican or Democratic “person” which is what the anonymous givers are interested in.)

  • helen

    If a corporation is “a person” according to the Supreme Court, why can’t it be “a Catholic person” with all that entails, (instead of just a Republican or Democratic “person” which is what the anonymous givers are interested in.)

  • helen

    fws:

    1.A birth control pill is an abortifacient drug. Any woman knows that if you forgot to take one and put yourself at risk of pregnancy, you just take two or three. [Ask your Pharmacist.]

    2. I think you are wrong. As sg says, there’s more behind this than that. Barrier preventives to pregnancy are cheap and supposedly protect from STD’s as well.
    [But, assuming you were right, why should they be "free" of co-pays? Medicines necessary to life often carry hefty co-pays; nobody's mandating that all prescriptions be "free"!]

    It comes down to: Why should we all pay for some people’s recreational sex?
    I might prefer a trip to the mountains; it might even be argued that it would be “good for my health” as triple digits are forecast! (And I’m a woman.) Will you help pay for that, too? ;)

  • helen

    fws:

    1.A birth control pill is an abortifacient drug. Any woman knows that if you forgot to take one and put yourself at risk of pregnancy, you just take two or three. [Ask your Pharmacist.]

    2. I think you are wrong. As sg says, there’s more behind this than that. Barrier preventives to pregnancy are cheap and supposedly protect from STD’s as well.
    [But, assuming you were right, why should they be "free" of co-pays? Medicines necessary to life often carry hefty co-pays; nobody's mandating that all prescriptions be "free"!]

    It comes down to: Why should we all pay for some people’s recreational sex?
    I might prefer a trip to the mountains; it might even be argued that it would be “good for my health” as triple digits are forecast! (And I’m a woman.) Will you help pay for that, too? ;)

  • Nick

    “A federal district court in Colorado has issued an injunction against the government enforcing ObamaCare’s abortifacient/contraceptive and sterilization mandate against Hercules, a private company.”
    see: http://cowboybyte.com/10595/score-one-for-religious-freedom/

  • Nick

    “A federal district court in Colorado has issued an injunction against the government enforcing ObamaCare’s abortifacient/contraceptive and sterilization mandate against Hercules, a private company.”
    see: http://cowboybyte.com/10595/score-one-for-religious-freedom/

  • Michael B.

    @Helen@18

    “It comes down to: Why should we all pay for some people’s recreational sex?”

    You’ll pay for it one way or the other. If you care about lower government spending, one reason is that the government will spend substantially less money financing birth control than it will paying for the child that results. At most, birth control pills will cost about $50 a month, which is about $600 a year. (In reality birth can control pills can be as little as $15 a month.) On the other hand, it costs $10,615 on average just to send a kid to public school for a single year. Now that’s just education. Then the mother gets tax credits for just having the kid. And if the mother is poor, I’m leaving things out like Medicaid, WIC, and food stamps.

  • Michael B.

    @Helen@18

    “It comes down to: Why should we all pay for some people’s recreational sex?”

    You’ll pay for it one way or the other. If you care about lower government spending, one reason is that the government will spend substantially less money financing birth control than it will paying for the child that results. At most, birth control pills will cost about $50 a month, which is about $600 a year. (In reality birth can control pills can be as little as $15 a month.) On the other hand, it costs $10,615 on average just to send a kid to public school for a single year. Now that’s just education. Then the mother gets tax credits for just having the kid. And if the mother is poor, I’m leaving things out like Medicaid, WIC, and food stamps.

  • helen

    As you say, Michael, you can get “birth control” pills for $15 a mo.
    Why do they need to be “free”?
    [If you want to argue that they are going to spare us paying the costs of raising a child, do you think women will be any more careful to take the "pill" if it's "free"? Probably less so, in line with other "free" things.
    As far as your hypothetical woman is concerned she'll be raising the child "free", too, maybe with a little spare cash for her to booze on.]

    And have another one.

  • helen

    As you say, Michael, you can get “birth control” pills for $15 a mo.
    Why do they need to be “free”?
    [If you want to argue that they are going to spare us paying the costs of raising a child, do you think women will be any more careful to take the "pill" if it's "free"? Probably less so, in line with other "free" things.
    As far as your hypothetical woman is concerned she'll be raising the child "free", too, maybe with a little spare cash for her to booze on.]

    And have another one.


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