As this blog has noted, the HHS mandate goes into effect on the 1st of August–about a week from today. Many non-profit organizations with religious objections have been granted a one-year safe harbor. Other organizations have grandfathered insurance plans, or don’t renew insurance contracts right away. But many small businesses will be hammered with this mandate in a week from today. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is not written only for large corporations or institutions. It’s for you and me–individual citizens. We have the right to freely practice our faiths. For many of us, that means that we cannot participate in buying abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, or contraception. Not for ourselves, not for anybody.
Brian Fraga of National Catholic Register has written a report of what some Catholic business owners are doing, right now. As he reports,
A motion hearing is scheduled for tomorrow, July 25, in U.S. District Court in Colorado, where a Catholic family that owns and operates a heating and air conditioning company is seeking an injunction to halt the controversial mandate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Read the following carefully. Your government holds that a secular business doesn’t have the freedom of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment.
The U.S. government argues in court documents that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the Newlands’ family business, Hercules Industries, is a secular entity and thus does not exercise religion in a way that is protected by the First Amendment.
“By definition, a secular employer does not engage in any ‘exercise of religion,’” government lawyers argued in their brief for Newland v. Sebelius, which also presents the HHS mandate as a means to improve the health of women and children, guaranteeing “preventive care” for women so that they are on an equal playing field with men in the workforce.
Matt Bowman is legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (which used to be the Alliance Defense Fund), which is representing the business owners.
“We think, under the law, the federal government is not allowed to force families to abandon their faith just to earn a living, that religious freedom in the First Amendment, as Congress has protected it, is not just for Sundays and soup kitchens. It’s for you to live your daily life, including in business, according to your faith,” Bowman told the Register.
In Newland v. Sebelius, Alliance Defending Freedom is asking the court to block the HHS mandate and to issue a ruling by Aug. 1. The Newlands’ business does not qualify for an extension granted to some religiously affiliated employers, who will not be required to abide by the mandate until August 2013. The family business also does not have the option to keep its current health-care plan, which does not cover contraception.
For this business, the hammer comes down in November.
As things now stand, Hercules Industries would be legally required by the HHS mandate to start offering all Food and Drug Administration-approved forms of birth control, including sterilization and abortifacients, in November, when its next health-insurance plan year begins.
A U.S. district court judge will hear the motions tomorrow. Stay tuned.