Posts tagged with: HHS mandate

Paul and Henry Griesedieck, owners of American Pulverizer Company of St. Louis and pro-life Christians, made a stand against the Health and Human Services Mandate and won, for now.  The HHS mandate requires employers and health insurers to provide employees with health insurance that includes coverage of contraceptives and abortifacient drugs which terminate early pregnancies. According to LifeNews, “[t]he U.S. District Court for Western Missouri issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the law.”

In their lawsuit, the Griesediecks contend that compliance with the Obamacare mandate would force them to violate their religious and moral beliefs.  In their lawsuit, the Griesediecks state that “it would be sinful for us to pay for services that have a significant risk of causing the death of embryonic lives.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Dorr ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to be able to prove that Obamacare “substantially  burdens their exercise of religion…Plaintiffs must either pay for a health plan that includes drugs and services to which they religiously object or incur fines.”

Judge Dorr noted that the federal government contends that the Griesedieck Companies are secular entities, and thus cannot “exercise religion.”  Judge Dorr responded by saying:  “There are many entities under which an individual can run a business…Does an individual’s choice to run his business as one of these entities strip that individual of his right to exercise his religious beliefs?”

In addition to concluding that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act the mandate and its penalties would substantially burden plaintiffs’ free exercise rights, the court held that for 1st Amendment purposes, the mandate is not a neutral law of general applicability.

The court wrote: “Plaintiffs have shown to the court’s satisfaction for the purposes of these initial proceedings, that the [Affordable Care Act] mandate is not generally applicable because it does not apply to grandfathered health plans, religious employers, or employers with fewer than fifty employees.  Specifically, plaintiffs argue that the ACA mandate’s exemptions clearly prefer secular purposes over religious purposes and some religious purposes over other religious purposes.  Burdens cannot be selectively imposed only on conduct motivated by religious belief.”

Read the full article here.

The National Catholic Register and Associated Press are reporting that Justice Sonia Sotomayor has denied Hobby Lobby (and a related company, Mardel, Inc.) its request to opt out of the HHS mandate to provide abortifacients as health care to employees. Justice Sotomayor’s decision stated that Hobby Lobby did not meet the legal standard for preventing them from complying with the government mandate. However, David Green, CEO and owner of Hobby Lobby disagrees, saying the lawsuit violates his family’s faith.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby as well as a number of other organizations and groups that have filed lawsuits against the contraceptive mandate, said in a Dec. 20 press release that “the Green family’s religious convictions prohibit them from providing or paying for the abortion-inducing drugs, the ‘morning-after’ and ‘week-after’ pills, which would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception.”

Said the Becket Fund, “The business’s lawsuit acts to preserve its right to carry out its mission free from government coercion.”

If the ruling stands, the decision will cost Hobby Lobby approximately $1.3 million in fines daily. The company currently employs about 18,000 people, operating over 500 stores in 41 states.

“There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution,” wrote Judge Brian Cogan in his ruling issued two weeks ago against a Justice Department motion to dismiss the Archdiocese of New York’s lawsuit against the HHS mandate. “To the contrary, the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards governmental self-restraint and self-correction.”

More federal judges are coming to the same conclusion. Earlier this week a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. issued a partial but significant victory to Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College in their lawsuit against the Obama administration’s contraception and abortifacient mandate.

The Obama administration had announced plans to create a new rule protecting the religious liberties of these Christian colleges and other similarly situated religious groups. But to date, the administration has not yet taken the steps necessary to make that promise legally binding. Lower courts dismissed the colleges’ cases while the government contemplated a new rule, but the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided the cases should stay alive while it scrutinizes whether the government will meet its promised deadlines.

“The D.C. Circuit has now made it clear that government promises and press conferences are not enough to protect religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “The court is not going to let the government slide by on non-binding promises to fix the problem down the road.”

Conestoga Wood Specialties of Pennsylvania, with 950 employees, has filed suit against the government’s HHS mandate. The Mennonites, who trace their religious roots to the 16th century, have about one million members worldwide. Mennonites understand that life begins at conception, and the owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties do not want to be forced to comply with a mandate that conflicts with their faith.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Because of that provision in the policy, because our clients are paying for it, because of their religious beliefs, they are very opposed to any form of killing – they don’t think they should be forced into providing coverage that has the potential for taking of a life,” said Chuck Proctor, a Chadds Ford-based lawyer representing the firm and its principals, Norman Hahn and his two sons.

There are now 41 cases, with 110 plaintiffs, against the HHS mandate, including the craft store, Hobby Lobby and Grand Rapids-based Autocam.

Currently, there are forty cases against the Obamacare HHS mandate. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires employers to provide,  as employee health care, “preventative services” such as abortion and sterilization.

John Daniel Davidson, in First Things, says that the president and his administration have grossly misjudged this entire situation. In Davidson’s view, the administration “in their conceit” seemed to think that millions of Americans would simply put aside their deeply held religious and moral convictions and play along with the government. But that’s not all.

…perhaps most shocking was the administration’s hubris in assuming that religious organizations, business owners, and individuals with deeply held beliefs about contraception and abortion would agree to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs such as the morning-after pill. Were federal officials surprised when the Catholic Church objected to mandated contraceptive coverage? Did they really think Catholic-owned hospitals and universities would accept such a rule? Did they think conservative Christian schools like Wheaton College—which forbids alcohol, tobacco, and even unsanctioned dancing on its campus—would somehow be willing to provide its employees with morning-after pills and other abortifacients?

Davidson specifically mentions the case brought by the owners of Hobby Lobby (read more here and here) as an example of a non-religious organization – a for-profit business – whose owners are not willing to simply set aside their religious beliefs for what they believe to be an unconstitutional law.

Read “Obamacare’s Crisis of Conscience” at First Things.

Making the case for religious liberty for those with ultra-short attention spans.

Ed Morrissey also provides a 30 second argument:
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Religious groups and businesses who, by weight of conscience, are choosing not to participate in the HHS mandate requiring them to provide abortifacients, artificial birth control, sterilization procedures and abortions as part of “health” care coverage, are now faced with massive fines from the government. The fines for non-compliance are $100 per day per employee. For some companies, that means millions in fines.

Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel for The Becket Fund, says

…the mandate places a “significant burden” on religious organizations’ ability to plan, budget and hire.

“Most organizations are already trying to get their insurance plans, for example, in the next year in place,” he said.

The lawyer noted that there is a “great deal of anxiety” because employers are subject to lawsuits from individuals who are not receiving required benefits under their health plans.

“That anxiety is only increasing as the implementation date approaches,” he said.

While some organizations have been given a reprieve from the mandate, there remains a strong sense of confusion among many as to whether or not they will be forced to comply, based on whether they are primarily “religious” or not. For instance, Tyndale House recently won a court case against having to participate in the HHS Mandate, but Hobby Lobby, a retail chain, faced a legal setback in its stance that the mandate violates the owners’ religious convictions.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver recently told EWTN that

The First Amendment is a promise that no one should have to choose between a public life and their religious integrity. Without the consent of our elected officials, the mandate can change in troubling ways. This kind of unchecked discrimination is dangerous.
Read more on the latest HHS news at the National Catholic Register’s “Becket Fund: Anxieties Mounting over Contraception Mandate.”

Kyle Duncan, general counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, gives us a glimpse of what is ahead in the fight for religious liberty regarding the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate, given the outcome of Tuesday’s election.  In the National Catholic Register, Duncan outlines that current federal lawsuits fall into two broad categories: those filed by nonprofit organizations and those filed by business owners. In the case of the nonprofits,

The federal government has not responded to the merits of these lawsuits, but has instead sought to have them thrown out as premature. The government says that its non-binding promise of an “accommodation” by August 2013 means that the courts should not hear the lawsuits now — even though the mandate is a final rule that is now harming these plaintiffs’ ability to plan, hire and budget.

Unfortunately, in two of the cases (Belmont Abbey and Wheaton), the courts have agreed with the government and dismissed the lawsuits. Those dismissals will be reviewed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in December.

The cases filed by business owners such as John Kennedy of Autocam and David Green of Hobby Lobby have met with “some success”, the article states, but the fight is far from done.
Because these business lawsuits are not subject to any delays, the government has had to respond on the merits. Its response is startling.The government has flatly stated that a person who goes into business to make a profit loses any right to exercise religion in his business pursuits. A kosher butcher, for instance, would presumably have no religious rights associated with his decision to stock only kosher products. A Bible seller would have no religious rights associated with the sacred texts she is selling.

The profit motive alone dissolves these individuals’ rights to exercise religion. The government apparently wants to enforce its own theology of how God and mammon should mix. But its interpretation would bar individuals from providing for their families in ways consistent with their religious beliefs.

 

 

John Kennedy,  president and CEO of Autocam and Autocam Medical in Grand Rapids, MI, recently filed suit over the HHS mandate requiring employers to provide artificial birth control, abortifacients and abortions as part of medical care coverage. On Wednesday, government attorneys explained the rejection of his suit, on the basis that it had no merit.

The government contends that provisions of the law that form Kennedy’s objections “are intended to help ensure that women have access to health coverage, without cost-sharing, for certain preventive services that medical experts have deemed necessary for women’s health and well-being.”

The services include contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, sterilization, and education and counseling for women during reproductive years.

“Plaintiffs’ challenge rests largely on the legal theory that a for-profit corporation established to engage in manufacturing can claim to exercise religion and thereby avoid the reach of laws designed to regulate commercial activity and protect the rights of employees,” Jacek Pruski, U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney, wrote in response to the lawsuit.

“This cannot be,” he wrote.

Mr. Kennedy’s attorney, Jason Miller, says the law forces some employers to participate in what they believe is intrinsic evil.

Mr. Kennedy recently spoke on this topic in a free Acton podcast available here.

You can read the entire Mlive.com article regarding the federal lawsuit here.

John Zmirak, author and Editor-in-Chief of The Intercollegiate Review, wants voters to know exactly what is at stake in the looming Presidential election. In a guest blogger piece at the National Catholic Register, Zmirak pointedly states that the choice between the two candidates isn’t just about whose economic agenda seems more reasonable or who won which debate:

…it’s about what America means: At heart of our Constitutional democracy is the freedom of individuals, even those with unpopular opinions, to pursue the good as they choose—and their right to form groups outside the government and push back against its policies. That’s why we have Amish communities, Catholic schools, associations of kosher butchers, hippie home-schools, gun clubs, organic farms… and all the other free institutions that build up our “ordered liberty.” Take all that away, quash every organization that displeases the federal government, and what you have is a country full of naked individuals, shivering in every wind that blows from Washington, D.C.

Read “First they came for the Catholics” at the National Catholic Register.