Do Business Owners Lose Their Constitutional Rights When They Earn A Living?

Um, put your pencil away, Mr. President.

The short answer is, “No.” The long answer is “show me where it says that (or even implies it) in the Constitution, and the amendments to the same (particularly in the Bill of Rights).”

What about when it comes to the HHS Mandate, which requires nonreligious entities provide coverage for artificial contraceptions, abortion services, etc.?

Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, has some thoughts around this issue which he shares in a post we wrote recently that bears the title, Obama, God, and the Profits (heh!). Here’s a taste,

A surprising and public rift opened up last week between President Obama and his lawyers over whether profit-making businesses can pursue goals other than making money, including adhering to religious requirements.

In courtrooms across the country—including one yesterday in Philadelphia—Department of Justice lawyers told judges that profit-making businesses with religious objections to the HHS contraceptive mandate cannot exercise religion.  Profit-making business apparently can pursue just one goal:  making money.  Business owners must check their religious values at the door.

Elsewhere in the country, however, President Obama offered the opposite message to a group of men graduating from Morehouse College.  He urged them to forge careers in business, but to avoid focusing solely on profits.  Instead, they should consider “what broader purpose your business might serve” by pursuing values other than profits, like “transforming a neighborhood.”  The President’s comments echoed his remarks last year at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he proclaimed that leaving our “values at the door” would “abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries.”

The President is right and his lawyers are wrong.

Businesses act on principles beyond the pursuit of profit every day.  Vegan markets refuse to sell animal products because they are ethically opposed to hurting animals. Some employers have long provided benefits to same-sex partners based on the moral view that doing so is right and just.  Some investment funds refuse to invest in fossil-fuel companies because they view them as destructive.  Businesses following moral, ethical, philosophical, and environmental principles are all around us.

Similarly, some businesses operate according to religious principles.  The Hahn family, for example, are Mennonite Christians who run Conestoga Wood, a cabinet-making company in East Earl, PA.  They have long followed the President’s admonition to consider the “broader purpose” their business might serve, and to avoid leaving their “values at the door.”  Yet yesterday they heard government lawyers tell judges that because their company earns money, the Hahns cannot follow their religion while they work.  The government seeks to impose crushing fines on the Hahns ($95,000 dollars every day) unless the Hahns will start violating their religion and paying for drugs that they believe cause abortions.

The lawyers have it all wrong.  Earning money doesn’t suddenly give the government the right to extinguish your constitutional rights.  The New York Times Company is a profit-making corporation, but it obviously has free speech rights.  Many doctors provide abortions for profit, but of course the government could not stop them just because they make money.  We don’t trade in our constitutional rights when we earn a living.

Read the rest.

Sarah Torre, by way of the Heritage Foundation via Lifenews, reports on the progress of other firms who have filed suit against the Department of Health & Human Services.

Over the next few weeks, two more family businesses will be in federal courts seeking relief from the mandate. Already, 19 of 26 plaintiffs who have had rulings touching on the merits of their cases have been awarded stays against the coercive rule. In total, more than 190 plaintiffs are involved in over 50 cases.

But even if the mandate is rescinded or thrown out by a court, the government will retain the authority through other parts of ObamaCare to coerce insurance companies and employers and trample on individuals’ constitutional freedoms by imposing additional objectionable mandates.

Employees and individuals should be able to choose health care that best fits the needs of their families and respects their freedom. Employers should be able to build and grow job-creating businesses in accordance with their values without threat of government penalties. The first step on the road to regaining that freedom is rescinding the ObamaCare anti-conscience mandate—and protecting Americans’ liberties more generally will require full repeal of ObamaCare.

Read more.

While you’re catching up on the news, you might be interested in what Peggy Noonan writes about the IRS Scandal over at her blog at The Wall Street Journal.

I got an email last night that had the effect of a clarifying conversation. It was from a smart friend who works in government. He understood the point I was trying to make about how the current IRS scandal is different from previous ones and more threatening to the American arrangement. I had written that this scandal isn’t a discrete event in which a president picks up a phone and tells someone in the White House to look into the finances of some steel industry executives, or to check out the returns of some guy on an enemies list.

But my friend got to the essence. He wrote, “The left likes to say, ‘Watergate was worse!’ Watergate was bad—don’t get me wrong. But it was elites using the machinery of government to spy on elites. . . . It’s something quite different when elites use the machinery of government against ordinary people. It’s a whole different ball game.”

It is.

That’s exactly what I meant.

In previous IRS scandals it was the powerful abusing the powerful—a White House moving against prominent financial or journalistic figures who, because of their own particular status or the machineries at their disposal, could pretty much take care of themselves. A scandal erupts, there are headlines, and then people go on their way. The dreadful thing about this scandal, what makes it ominous, is that this is the elites versus regular citizens. It’s the mighty versus normal people. It’s the all-powerful directors of the administrative state training their eyes and moving on uppity and relatively undefended Americans.

Read it all.

We are definitely living in interesting times.

  • Heloise1

    So interesting it is scary.

  • alwr

    The problem with your title is that no one should lose their rights when they earn a living. The solution is to restructure our whole system so that health care is not dependent on employment or employers. But I don’t hear the church advocating for that.

  • Monimonika

    Wait, wait. Can someone explain something to me?

    “Employees and individuals should be able to choose health care that best
    fits the needs of their families and respects their freedom.”

    What’s that got to do with EMPLOYERS having the right to refuse to pay for parts of their employee’s healthcare that the EMPLOYERS don’t like? If I as an employee wanted healthcare that included use of contraceptives, why does my employer’s personal religious beliefs get to squash mine? Especially if the business and my position in the business have nothing whatsoever to do with either of our religious beliefs? Am I not being discriminated against for being a female with a less misogynistic religious belief system than my employer’s?

    Also, using vegan markets as an example of a business that can possibly have its employers’ beliefs encroached upon is stupid. The very basis of the vegan market is that it is marketed as being vegan. That’s the entire point of the business itself! It’s not like a furniture store that happens to have a Muslim owner is being marketed as being Islamic, nor does the furniture business inherently depend upon it.

    • Stu

      Simple answer. Pay for ALL of YOUR healthcare costs YOURSELF and you have the freedom to purchase what you want. Problem solved and you don’t have to get the Federal Government to force others to get involved in matters that happen in your bedroom.

    • kmk1916

      Artificial contraceptives are a lifestyle decision. Why should a business (and the other employees) have to pay for a lifestyle decision?

      I should further clarify: using contraceptives is not to fix something that isn’t working, it is impeding a natural function of a woman’s body. Is it really health care?

      In fact, the widespread use of contraceptives is wreaking havoc on the most elementary building block of our society: the family.

      So Catholics who are actually listening carefully to the Church understand that this is something harmful to women both physically (reading the written info inside the packaging will demostrate that), emotionally and spiritually, not to mention encourages promiscuity, adultery, abortion, broken marriages and homes, etc., etc. The CHurch AND her people–those who want to bring the love and concern of Christ into the world–don’t want to contribute to the misery.

      Again, why should anyone be forced to pay for it?

  • Jerry Lynch

    Lol, sorry, this blog is so pathetic it barely earns this repsonse. It is not unlike listening to Hitler about the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem: I’ll cringe and throwup in private. The American Heritage Foundation? Quoted as a reliable source? In itself enough to dismiss this piece as no more than right wing propaganda. But I will take a second look.

    Peggy Noonan is a squirrel. Her column is so bereft of facts but I do admire her persistence in looking for nuts. There is no evidence whatsoever, or any hint, that Obama did what Nixon did on numerous occasions. That is, “I had written that this scandal isn’t a discrete event in which a president picks up a phone and tells someone in the White House to look into the finances of some steel industry executives, or to check out the returns of some guy on an enemies list”: this was Nixon, not Obama. Nothing indicates he did what this gossip columnist scandalously suggests. It is this need since Nixon resigned for Republicans to make Democrats as vile.

    Baseless and unsustainable allegations: “…will retain the authority through other parts of ObamaCare to coerce insurance companies and employers and trample on individuals’ constitutional freedoms by imposing additional objectionable mandates.” Typical misinformation (or in plain speak, lie). These are the same people who said those of Spanish descent will never equal in intelligence white people.

    “Businesses act on principles beyond the pursuit of profit every day. Vegan markets refuse to sell animal products because they are ethically opposed to hurting animals. Some employers have long provided benefits to same-sex partners based on the moral view that doing so is right and just. Some investment funds refuse to invest in fossil-fuel companies because they view them as destructive. Businesses following moral, ethical, philosophical, and environmental principles are all around us.”
    I do not want to immediately assert that this person is naive or wrong, yet he is using this to say that businesses, including multi-national corporations, are proned to act with moral, ethical, and environmental principles–totally ignoring what the labor situation in America was like before unions. How profitable would a Vegan Industry be if it allowed some form of cruelity to animals or even minimal use of their by-products. I am not so cynical to believe that a true adherrence to principles is behind such an industry, yet the suggestion is, we don’t need no stinkin regulations; corporations are people. Sweat-shops, company stores, child labor, no health insurance or safety codes or vacation or job security or retirement funds or the forty hour week, to name a few, until the unions put pressure on Mr. Wonderful Big Business.
    The word “labor” has long been a flashpoint to identify liberals.

  • Gregory Peterson

    So, what’s being rationalized here, as near as I can figure out, is a Christian privilege of law nullification.


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