Morning Bell: Business Owners Battle Obamacare for Religious Freedom
The Newland family, which owns Hercules Industries, won a preliminary injunction against Obamacare's HHS mandate. (Left to right: James, Paul, William, and Andrew Newland; courtesy of ADFmedia.org.)
Two days from now, employers across America will become vulnerable to crushing government penalties for exercising their religious freedom. This isn’t exactly what lawmakers advertised when they pushed Obamacare, but it is part of the Obama Administration’s agenda—forcing nearly all employers to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization services.
Beginning August 1, employers must amend their health insurance offerings to include these drugs and services. And if they don’t? How about a fine of $100 per employee per day for non-compliance. This outrageous policy makes it impossible for employers to afford the fine—meaning they must change their insurance policies or stop offering health coverage to their workers.
But for many employers, offering the types of services required under the HHS mandate violates their consciences. It conflicts with their deeply held religious beliefs. And the government is telling them that doesn’t matter—what’s more, it’s telling them that their beliefs are inconsequential, and they must pay.
Just last Friday, a judge in Colorado gave one business’s owners the first glimmer of hope that their religious freedom may survive this attack. Heritage’s John Malcolm and Dominique Ludvigson explained:
U.S. District Court Judge John Kane, a Carter appointee, granted a preliminary injunction on behalf of Hercules Industries, halting the government’s ability to enforce its anti-conscience mandate against the company while the lawsuit challenging the mandate continues in court…The case is in its early stages and will proceed to a trial on the merits.
Hercules is a family-owned, for-profit company with a self-insured health plan for its 265 employees. Its owners see the Obama Administration’s message as “either comply and desert our faith, or resist and be punished,” said William Newland, one of the owners.
“We have a President, I think, that doesn’t know much about building up a business, but he certainly has good ideas on how to tear one down,” Newland said.
Judge Kane concluded that the harm to the government from not enforcing the mandate “pales in comparison to the possible infringement upon Plaintiffs’ constitutional and statutory rights” to operate their business consistent with their convictions. Judge Kane concluded that the government’s interests in enforcing the mandate were undercut by the numerous exceptions to the mandate that the Administration has already created for other entities. “These interests are countered, and indeed, outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion,” he stated.
Operating on this belief, Obamacare brings nothing but punishment for business owners who believe otherwise. Heritage’s Jennifer Marshall and Dominique Ludvigson break down the monetary cost:
With 265 employees, Hercules’ fine would have amounted to $800,000 per month—almost $10 million per year. If Hercules were to take the more likely action of dropping health care coverage to avoid facilitating the mandate, thereby forcing its employees into government-run exchanges, it would face a fine on faith of approximately $2,000 per employee per year, for a total of $530,000 per year.
Those would be the monetary costs, but the cost to freedom would be much greater. Marshall and Ludvigsonnote:
While the court order is limited to Hercules and does not relieve other family businesses or the many religious non-profits with moral objections from having to comply with the mandate’s burden, Judge Kane’s analysis offers hope that their pleas for the restoration of their religious liberty will get a fair hearing.
How did it come to this? During the legislative battle over Obamacare, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) famously said that Congress would need to pass the law to see what was in it. She was right about one thing: Obamacare as it passed was not fully formed. The law gave unprecedented new powers to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fill in countless details, directing the ways Obamacare would affect all Americans. With this law, Congress handed over immeasurable authority to HHS. And Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been hard at work trying to convince Americans that this is all in their best interest.
There is no reason to believe it will end here, which is why it is vital to halt this attack on religious freedom as quickly as possible. As Ludvigson explains, this first HHS mandate “raises significant questions about what more Obamacare will require on other matters of deeply personal religious and moral significance, such as prenatal care, end-of-life issues, and parental authority for minors’ health decisions.”
More than 50 plaintiffs—for-profit and non-profit alike—have gone to court against the HHS mandate. In winning an injunction that prevents the mandate’s enforcement on its business while the case goes to trial, Hercules has demonstrated the strength of the religious liberty challenge to Obamacare.