September 26, 2012 Print

U.S. Department of Justice Appeals Hercules Industries Decision

by Bethany Monk

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday appealed a court order giving a Colorado business a temporary reprieve from complying with a federal mandate to cover contraceptives and potential abortion-inducing drugs through its insurance plan.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado issued the order in July, giving the Catholic family that owns Hercules Industries — a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning manufacturer in Denver — a reprieve from complying until the lawsuit is decided. The Obama administration is seeking to lift the order, which would mean the Newland family would have to offer the insurance this year.

“In filing its appeal, the administration sent a clear message that it wants to force families to abandon their faith in order to make a living,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “That’s the opposite of religious freedom.”

Since Aug. 1, many secular businesses nationwide have been required to offer the insurance to employees when their next enrollment period begins. Most faith-based groups, including Catholic hospitals, universities, and nonprofit ministries, must adhere by August 2013, but many remain unsure whether the so-called “safe harbor” extension applies to them.

Businesses could face hefty fines for not complying.

“The cost of religious freedom for this family could be millions of dollars per year in fines that would cripple their business and potentially destroy jobs if the administration ultimately had its way,” Bowman said.

The Obama administration opposed the order issued in Newland v. Sebelius, arguing that people of faith forfeit their religious liberties once they engage in business, according to ADF.

In contrast to this argument, President Obama released a video last week saying his “commitment to protecting religious liberty is and always will be unwavering.”

However, the Obama administration currently is facing 30 religious-freedom lawsuits over the mandate from secular business owners and faith-based organizations that say the mandate violates the First Amendment.

On Friday, Federal District Judge Robert H. Cleland, of the Eastern District of Michigan will hear arguments in the Thomas More Law Center’s motion to halt the implementation of the mandate on behalf of Legatus, the nation’s largest organization of top Catholic business leaders, and the Ann Arbor-based Weingartz Supply Company.

Bowman said Americans, including family business owners, should be free to live and conduct their business according to their faith.

“The Obama administration claims ‘unwavering support for religious freedom,” he said, “but this appeal demonstrates that the only thing unwavering is the administration’s tenacious opposition to that freedom.”

Read Newland v. Sebelius.

Read District Judge John L. Kane’s July 27 ruling in Newland v. Sebelius.