Hercules industries, a family-owned business in Denver, is suing the Obama administration over the HHS mandate. The business is owned by a devout Catholic family. They believe that the government has no right to force them to violate Catholic Church teachings, consistent for 2000 years, that abortion, contraception, and sterilization are grave evils. They were granted an injunction by a Federal judge, who ordered the HHS not to enforce the coercive mandate on Hercules industries. They spoke truth to power, and a Federal judge found their complaint to be righteous.
The Denver City Council had a plan to recognize Hercules Industries as a model Colorado employer. Until Hercules dared to speak up against the government. The City Council withdrew the planned recognition. Archbishop Aquila, recently installed as prelate of Denver, wrote a fine guest column in the Denver Post. Herewith, in its entirety:
More than 30,000 people will move to Colorado this year; I became one of them in July when I came home after an 11-year absence.
It’s easy to see why Americans want to live here. Five cities in Colorado are listed among the Best Places to Live in America. Coloradans are among America’s most fit residents, and our natural beauty is unparalleled. Our culture is welcoming. Our people are kind.
Net-positive Colorado migration continues despite our rising unemployment numbers — which speaks to the caliber of our state.
Colorado has a growing population and steadily rising unemployment numbers, which means that Colorado’s successful employers are vital to our welfare. We should recognize Colorado companies and employers for their contributions to our economy.
Until last week, Denver Councilwoman Robin Kniech believed that Hercules Industries should be recognized as a model employer. The Denver-based HVAC manufacturer employs more than 200 people. On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, Kniech submitted a proclamation to the City Council thanking the company, especially for its “generous employee health care coverage.”
The proclamation was to be issued on Aug. 13. Shortly before that date, Kniech withdrew her support. She says she was hoping to avoid a “partisan food fight.”
Hercules hadn’t changed its health plan, laid off Coloradans, or sold out to a foreign conglomerate. Instead, Kniech discovered that the company is involved in litigation with the federal government, claiming that the HHS contraception mandate violated the First Amendment to the Constitution.
By all appearances, Kniech discovered that Hercules had religious convictions, and she sought distance.
Kniech’s withdrawal is unsurprising. But it is disappointing.
Religious values compel Hercules to offer generous health care coverage and benefits, to support its union-organized labor force, and to serve — as Kniech puts it — “as respectful and responsible employers of a diverse workforce.” The same religious values compel them to protect their right to a clear conscience- to observe the norms of religious morality in their public life.
When religious people are marginalized from the public square, all of us lose. Religious values (like those of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., for example) have served as forces for great public good in America. Public shame of the religiously convicted undermines the American ideal. Sadly, however, Hercules is not alone in being marginalized; religious institutions and practices face increasing threats in America. Last week, the Washington, D.C.-based Liberty Institute released a survey of religious hostility in America, documenting hundreds of unreasonable persecutions of religious Americans. It is a chilling read.
In 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama suggested that “deliberative, pluralistic democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values.” This is a troubling perspective, a suggestion that democracy requires religious values to be compromised by the secular values of their day.
In fact, democracy does not require the marginalization of religious values. John Adams understood this in 1798 when he explained that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Successful democracy thrives with the contribution of diverse perspectives, including those of the “religiously motivated.”
When religious conscience threatens essential human freedom or dignity, governments have a vested interest in protecting public welfare. But the law which Hercules is fighting is not an assertion of essential human freedom or dignity. The HHS mandate is designed to fund private sexual expression — and even abortion — from the coffers of American businesses. Trading free access to contraception for our foundational reverence for religious liberty is a betrayal of our history- and a short-sighted plan for America.
House Speaker Frank McNulty took up the mantle of Hercules’ cause, and rightly commended them for their work. I pray the Denver City Council will do the same.
Choosing to marginalize the owners of Hercules for their religiosity is an insult to the founding values of our nation.