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Obama minions: Gov't 'can override your religion'

The Obama administration today argued in court that the government can make a requirement that violates religious beliefs and that a company cannot reflect the religious faith of its owners.

The administration’s statements came in a court filing that asserts the federal government has the authority to order private companies to provide abortifacients for their employees.

A case against the order was brought by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of Legatus, the nation’s largest organization of top Catholic business leaders, and Weingartz Supply and its owner.

The Department of Justice attorneys argued the challenge by Weingartz Supply Company and its owners “rests largely on the theory that a self-described secular corporation established to sell outdoor power equipment can claim to exercise religion and thereby avoid the reach of laws designed to regulate commercial activity.”

“This cannot be.”

The federal attorneys – Stuart F. Delery, Barbara L. McQaude, Sheila M. Lieber, Michelle Bennett and Ethan P. Davis – are arguing in federal court in Michigan against a request for a preliminary injunction that would prevent the enforcement of an Obamacare mandate requiring employers to provide such abortifacients through health programs for employees.

The plaintiffs argue that the federal order conflicts with the U.S. Constitution by requiring them to violate their religious faith.

The Michigan case is just one of dozens nationwide that raise similar issues.

The federal attorneys contend that allowing employers to direct the activities of their entities with a respect for their own religious faith would be unworkable.

“It would also cripple the government’s ability to solve national problems through laws of general application,” they wrote.

Erin Mersino, the Thomas More Law Center attorney handling the case, said the federal attorneys’ arguments essentially suggest that a Christian faith is just fine as long as it’s inside a private home or private worship center, but not in society.

The brief contains “a complete and utter disregard” for religious rights, she said.

The next step, she said, could be for the government to demand that private companies not only pay for abortifacients, but under Obamacare’s “counseling” provision to pay for those who would try to convince employees to have abortions – at company expense.

“It’s very frightening, facing this,” she said. “We just hope the judge makes the right decision.”

If such a concept would be upheld by a court, it could have a far-reaching impact, such as on the decision by Chick-fil-A owners to close their stores on Sundays to allow their employees to go to church.

A hearing is scheduled Sept. 28.

In the brief, the federal attorneys also stated that existing health care programs – those Obama promised citizens could keep if they wished – will mostly be gone by 2013.

“The government estimates that, as a practical matter, a majority of group health plans will lose their grandfather status by 2013,” they said.

But on the issue of a company owner’s right to decide to run a business in accordance with his or her religious faith, the Obama administration was very clear.

The attorneys dismissed the claims from Legatus, saying that the Obama administration still is making the “rules” for the application of the requirement, so the judge shouldn’t make any decision yet.

They said the company is “for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion.”

And they said Mr. Weingartz is neither a “group health plan” or a “health insurance issuer,” so he has no grounds for making any complaint.

“The Free Exercise Clause does not prohibit a law that is neutral and generally applicable even if the law prescribes conduct that an individual’s religion proscribes,” the government attorneys wrote. “The regulations do not violate plaintiffs’ free speech or free association rights. The regulations compel conduct, not speech. They do not require plaintiffs to say anything; nor do they prohibit plaintiffs from expressing to company employees or the public their views in opposition to the use of contraceptive services.”

They said the goals of the government – “improving the health of women and children and equalizing the playing field for women and men” – is so important that even if the regulations are a burden on religious rights, the court should affirm them.

“The government may substantially burden the exercise of religion if it ‘(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest,'” they said.

They explained that whatever the religious beliefs of the owners, the fact that the company is set up as a corporation means the government can order it to do anything the government wants, irrespective of the owner’s beliefs.

“This case should begin and end with plaintiffs’ admission that Weingartz Supply Company is a secular employer and with the undisputed facts that confirm that admission,” they said.

They said the requirement for companies to have their health care plans provide abortifacients has nothing to do with the owner of the company or his religious beliefs.

“By their terms, the regulations apply to group health plans and health insurance issuers. Mr. Weingartz is neither. The regulations do not impose any obligations on individuals.”

And they concluded that abortificients are critical to health care in today’s world.

“Increased access to contraceptive services is a key part of these predicted health outcomes, as a lack of contraceptive use has proven to have negative health consequences for both women and a developing fetus,” the federal attorneys explained.

“The challenged regulations advance the compelling interests of promoting the health of women and newborn children and furthering gender equality by eliminating that cost-sharing,” they said.

The Obama administration’s interest in requiring companies like Weingartz to have health plans providing free abortifacients “is particularly compelling.”

They did not argue that there would be no damage to the company or its owner, but said it simply doesn’t matter.

“Any potential harm to plaintiffs resulting from their desire not to provide contraceptive coverage is thus outweighed by the significant harm an injunction would cause to the public,” they wrote.

They also accused the plaintiffs of wanting the government to “subsidize private religious practices.”

Leaders of a number of religious-advocacy groups have warned of the Obamacare contraception mandate consequences for business owners of faith: