Obama to Catholic Business: You have No Religious Liberty

This is shaping up to be a big fight – perhaps the big fight — in the saga of the HHS mandate. At least it’s one that will make ordinary Americans sit up and take notice.

The Obama administration has told the Newland family, the Catholic owners of a Colorado heating and cooling business, that they lost their right to religious freedom the moment they decided to engage in a for-profit business. And if they can’t comply with the mandate, they should simply get out of business. Yes, you heard that right!

The Newlands have taken the Administration to court. Here are the arguments from both sides.

The Justice Department responded by arguing that if the Newlands’ Roman Catholic faith prevented them from following the Obama administration’s command that they provide their employees with cost-sharing-free coverage for sterilizations, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, the Newlands could simply give up their business entirely.

The Justice Department further argued 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. “Hercules Industries, Inc., is not a religious employer; it is ‘an HVAC manufacturer.’”

“The First Amendment Complaint does not allege that the company is affiliated with a formally religious entity such as a church,” the Justice Department told the federal court. “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,” the Justice Department claimed, “a secular employer does not engage in any ‘exercise of religion.’”

“Hercules Industries has ‘made no showing of a religious belief which requires that [it] engage in the [HVAC] business,” DOJ told the court. “Any burden is therefore caused by the company’s choice to enter into a commercial activity.”

In its brief responding to the Justice Department on behalf of the Newland family, the Alliance Defending Freedom forcefully rebutted the claim that the First Amendment does not apply to corporations let alone to family-owned businesses.

“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,” said the Newlands’ brief.

“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.

If the Obama administration’s understanding of the First Amendment were accepted, argued the Alliance Defending Freedom’s brief, the media would have no rights either.

“The government’s exclusionary attitude would push religion out of every sphere of life except the four wall of a church,” they said in their brief. “If for-profit corporations have no First Amendment ‘purpose,’ newspapers and other media would have no rights.”

You can read the whole thing here.

Notice how in the bolded part, the Administration appeals to the “new” definition of “religion” it wants to employ? Only for strictly religious entitiies within the four walls of a church that employ only their own kind are eligible for religious liberty.

Not so fast, Mr. President: the Newlands have won the first round. Story here.

Mr. President, isn’t forcing small business owners to shut down over your obsession with contraception and abortion a strange way of promoting jobs? Seems like just the opposite to me

November can’t come fast enough.

God bless the Newlands and Alliance Defense Fund!


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