Justice Dept. to Company Owners: Give Up Catholic Beliefs or Get Out of Business

Friday, 27 Jul 2012 01:00 PM

By Patrick Hobin

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The Justice Department told a family fighting Obamacare-imposed sterilization and contraceptive coverage for employees of its business that they have a stark choice: Give up their Catholic beliefs or go out of business, CNS News reported.

The Newland family of Colorado — who own Hercules Industries, a heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning business that employs 265 people — were given what was essentially an ultimatum, in a formal court filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

The Justice Department’s filing was made in a suit brought by Hercules owners William, Paul, and James Newland, and their sister, Christine Ketterhagen, CNSNews.com reported. The Newlands’ lawsuit challenges a regulation, which takes effect Aug. 1, that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finalized earlier this year that requires virtually all health plans to cover sterilizations and contraceptives, including those that induce abortions.

The Newlands are Catholic and the church opposes sterilization, contraception, and abortion.

Catholic bishops have criticized the Obamacare rule, saying that it created a class of Americans who are forced to provide services that fly in the face of their values, with little or no chance for exemption.

In their complaint against the Obama administration, the Newlands explained why they could not comply with Sebelius’s regulation, CNSNews.com reported.

“The Newlands sincerely believe that the Catholic faith does not allow them to violate Catholic religious and moral teachings in their decisions operating Hercules Industries. They believe that according to the Catholic faith their operation of Hercules must be guided by ethical social principles and Catholic religious and moral teachings, that the adherence of their business practice according to such Catholic ethics and religious and moral teachings is a genuine calling from God, that their Catholic faith prohibits them to sever their religious beliefs from their daily business practice, and that their Catholic faith requires them to integrate the gifts of the spiritual life, the virtues, morals, and ethical social principles of Catholic teaching into their life and work."

“The Catholic Church teaches that abortifacient drugs, contraception and sterilization are intrinsic evils,” the complaint reads. “As a matter of religious faith the Newlands believe that those Catholic teachings are among the religious ethical teachings they must follow throughout their lives including in their business practice.”

The Justice Department responded by saying, according to CNSNews.com, that if the Newlands’ faith prevented them from following the regulation they could simply give up their business entirely and that people owning for-profit secular businesses do not have a First Amendment right to the free exercise religion in the way they conduct their businesses—particularly if their business is incorporated.

“Here, plaintiffs have not sufficiently alleged that the preventive services coverage regulations substantially burden their religious exercise,” the Justice Department told the court, according to CNSNews.com. “Hercules Industries, Inc., is not a religious employer; it is ‘an HVAC manufacturer.'”

“By definition,” the Justice Department claimed, “a secular employer does not engage in any ‘exercise of religion.’”

In its brief responding to the Justice Department on behalf of the Newland family, the Alliance Defending Freedom said, according to CNSNews.com, “The government argues that the Newlands forfeited their right to religious liberty as soon as they endeavored to earn their living by running a corporation.”

“Nothing in the Constitution, the Supreme Court’s decisions, or federal law requires — or even suggests — that families forfeit their religious liberty protection when they try to earn a living, such as by operating a corporate business,” they argued.

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