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