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autocamA few weeks ago, Hobby Lobby made waves when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the arts and crafts chain in its lawsuit against the Health and Human Services Contraception Mandate. West Michigan manufacturer, Autocam, has been engaged in a similar legal fight. John Kennedy, owner of Autocam, stated that his and his family’s Roman Catholic faith “is integral to Autocam’s corporate culture” and the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide contraceptives and abortifacients was a violation of their beliefs.

Late last year, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied Autocam’s lawsuit against the HHS department. The company’s claim was denied on the grounds that, according to that court, engaging in for profit business is  separate from any religious beliefs of owners.

On Monday August 4, The Supreme Court officially reversed the decision from the Sixth Circuit. Tom Ciesielka from the Thomas More Society, who represents the company, gave a statement:

Today, the United States Supreme Court officially vacated the 6th Circuit’s decision that denied Autocam Corporation and its owners, protection against governmental violation of Constitutionally protected religious freedoms. The case has now been sent back to the lower court, following the decision in the Hobby Lobby case, argued on comparable merit. (more…)

The Thomas More Society stated today in a press release that they are working with Catholic Vote Defense League in a fight to seek “constitutional protection of religious freedom.” Specifically, they have filed a cert petition with the Supreme Court for the case, Autocam Vs. Sebelius. They are petitioning

the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ recent decision, denying the claims of Autocam, an international automotive manufacturer, and its owners, that Obamacare’s so-called “HHS mandate” abridges their federal constitutional and statutory rights to the free exercise of their religious faith as well as other  legal rights. John Kennedy, CEO of Michigan-based family-owned company, Autocam, joined the company as well as its other family owners to urge the Justices to rule that the government has no right to require that Autocam purchase group insurance coverage, providing its employees with morally objectionable contraceptives, including abortifacients (e.g., the so-called abortion pill, Plan B, and “Ella”), and sterilization.

See the press release here. The official petition to the Supreme Court states that  “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act cannot mean one thing in one part of the United States and something entirely different in another. This Court’s attention is required to sort out the important legal questions HHS Mandate under RFRA.”

Read the case here. See recent posts about Autocam and their case on the Powerblog.

Autocam, a West Michigan business owned by John Kennedy and his family, filed suit against the federal government in October, 2012. The suit is one of over 200 plaintiffs battling the HHS mandate requiring employers to cover costs for abortions and abortifacients in employee health insurance. Now, the Thomas More Society is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Autocam’s case after the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dismissed the case brought by the Kennedy family and Autocam Corporation. A press release from the Thomas More Society stated:

We mean to take this case directly up to the U.S. Supreme Court, as the U.S. Courts of Appeal are now sharply divided on these critical issues,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, the national public interest law firm representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit along with CatholicVote Legal Defense Fund. “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enacted in order to protect people of faith against government mandates that impose a substantial burden on believers’ efforts to freely exercise their religious convictions, unless the government has really compelling reasons for doing so, and even then only if the means used are the least restrictive and burdensome among possible alternatives. We hope the Supreme Court will agree to hear this case so that the Kennedys and other business owners who practice as well as profess their religious faith can keep on doing so without having to ‘bet the company’ and thereby risk their employees’ jobs as well as their own livelihood.”


On Tuesday June 11, Autocam Corporation went before the U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit Court in Cincinnati to argue against the enforcement of the Health and Human Services birth control mandate. President and CEO of Autocam and Autocam Medical, John Kennedy, says that “the law forces some employers to participate in what they believe is intrinsic evil.” But his request for an injunction had been denied by the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

A spokesperson from the Thomas More Society, which is representing Autocam and several other companies in the fight for religious liberty, said that their argument went well, but there is no telling how the court will rule or when they will make a decision. If the court affirms the denial of the injunction, Autocam and the Thomas More Society will seek review from the Supreme Court.

For previous PowerBlog coverage of this story, see here and here.

For more information about the various organizations in litigation, visit the Becket Fund’s Central Information page.

This morning, Autocam Corp. Chief Executive Officer John C. Kennedy joined us on AU Online to give a free presentation on ObamaCare, the HHS mandate, and the practical implications of this legislation from his perspective as a Roman Catholic businessman. His presentation was spot on and spurred some good questions from attendees. But why take my word for it?

If you didn’t attend this morning’s session, you still have the chance to enroll for free to listen to a recording of the talk. We have also posted resources such as the slides used during the session and links to articles related to the Autocam Corp. v. Sebelius lawsuit on the From a Businessman’s Perspective: ObamaCare and the HHS Mandate course page.

Also, read this article by reporter Shandra Martinez about this morning’s presentation.

Join West Michigan business leader, John Kennedy, for a discussion of the HHS mandate and Obamacare. Kennedy, president and chief executive officer of Autocam, is filing suit against the federal government because the “mandate unconstitutionally coerces” him to violate his convictions about the dignity of human life.

What do business leaders need to know about ObamaCare and the HHS mandate? Don’t miss your chance to engage in a conversation on this timely issue. Kennedy will take questions online from attendees participating in this free lecture.

When: Friday, November 2, 9:00am ET

Where: AU Online (

Cost: Free Enrollment (Limited Availability)

Presenter: John C. Kennedy, president and chief executive officer of Autocam and Autocam Medical

In late September, the Wall Street Journal asked Catholic business leaders for their reaction to Pope Francis’ economic views in an article titled, “For Business, a Papal Pushback.” It ran with the teaser line: “Corporate leaders see merit in pope’s message, if not his broad-brush attack on capitalism.” Journal writer Scott Calvert interviewed Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg for his story. He observed that Pope Francis had characterized market economies as generally exploitative. “He doesn’t seem to want to concede the sheer number of people who have escaped from poverty as a consequence of the opening up of global markets and the activities of business,” Gregg said. “I know a lot of Catholic businessmen who are quite demoralized when they hear the pope talk about the daily reality in which they live.”

I recently had a chance to talk to John C. Kennedy III, a Roman Catholic Grand Rapids businessman and a board member of the Acton Institute, for his read of the Francis visit. Kennedy is president and CEO of Autocam Medical. Before that, he was president and CEO of Autocam Corporation, which he founded in 1988 and sold in 2014 (for PowerBlog coverage of Autocam’s legal pushback against the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide contraceptives and abortifacients go here). Beyond his business commitments, Kennedy devotes time to a number of organizations. He is a member of the Boards of NN, Inc., the parent company of Autocam Corporation, Grand Valley State University, Lacks Enterprises, Shape Corporation, the Van Andel Institute, and Advisory Board Member of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. Kennedy received his BA from the University of Detroit Mercy and his MBA from the University of Michigan.

Our exchange follows:

What was your reaction to the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States?

Pope Francis’s visit was absolutely phenomenal. It really spoke to his leadership qualities. As a Catholic, I was proud of the leader of our church. The stamina of a 78-year-old man who went from morning to night every day, with beginning to end mass coverage, four or five times, was incredible. It’s just absolutely amazing to me. He did a great job.

Francis made two major speeches to secular groups, one to Congress, one to the UN. Anything from those speeches that jumps out at you?

His message is that climate change is a moral issue. Some would say it’s a political issue, not a moral issue, but I think that’s wrong. I agree it’s a moral issue. It’s a little bit more complicated, as to how to fix it. But in this world we live in what amounts to a terrarium and we’re taking carbon from the ground and putting it into the atmosphere. That’s going to bring about change in this relatively closed system. I think we get bogged down in terms of the solution. So I think to the extent the pope stated the high level message of our moral responsibility for caring for our environment is exactly where we should be on this. He was appealing to the individual to look in your own conscience and say, “How should you be reacting to these things?” To me, that’s what we’re all called to do. (more…)