Terry Jeffrey

Under Obamacare, businesses that employ more than 50 people must provide their employees with insurance or pay a penalty, and the required insurance must include the mandated cost-sharing-free coverage for sterilizations, artificial contraception and abortifacients.

At Hercules Industries, the Newlands provide a generous self-insured health-care plan to their employees. It does not cover sterilization, artificial contraception or abortifacients.

"The Catholic Church teaches that abortifacient drugs, contraception and sterilization are intrinsic evils," says the Newlands' lawsuit.

"Consequently, the Newlands believe that it would be immoral and sinful for them to intentionally participate in, pay for, facilitate or otherwise support abortifacient drugs, contraception, sterilization, and related education and counseling as would be required by the Mandate, through their inclusion in health insurance coverage they offer at Hercules," says the suit.

The Catholic Bishops of the United States endorse this view. At a meeting in Atlanta last month, they unanimously adopted a resolution calling the HHS regulation an "unjust and illegal mandate" and a "violation of personal civil rights." They declared that the regulation created a class of Americans "with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values.

"They, too," said the bishops, "face a government mandate to aid in providing 'services' contrary to those values -- whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves -- without even the semblance of an exemption."

In a letter read during Sunday Mass in most dioceses around the country earlier this year, many of the nation's bishops flatly said: "We cannot -- we will not -- comply with this unjust law."

In response to the Newlands' complaint that ordering them to violate the teachings of the Catholic Church in the way they run their business is a violation of their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion, the Obama administration told the federal court that a private business has no protection under the First Amendment's free exercise clause -- especially if the business is incorporated.

"The First Amendment Complaint does not allege that the company is affiliated with a formally religious entity such as a church," said the Justice Department. "Nor does it allege that the company employs persons of a particular faith. In short, Hercules Industries is plainly a for-profit, secular employer."

"By definition," said the Justice Department, "a secular employer does not engage in any 'exercise of religion.'"

"It is well established that a corporation and its owners are wholly separate entities, and the Court should not permit the Newlands to eliminate that legal separation to impose their personal religious beliefs on the corporate entity or its employees," said the Justice Department.

This is just as if the Justice Department were to tell a family owned newspaper that it must publish editorials calling for a confiscatory estate tax, basing its coercion of the newspaper on the supposition (which lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom argue DOJ is by analogy making) that as a for-profit secular and incorporated employer, the paper has no First Amendment right to freedom of speech.


Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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