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Government says violating faith 'no burden'

Attorneys for the Obama administration have explained to a federal appeals court that ordering company owners to violate their faith by paying for abortion pills does not amount to a significant “burden” at all.

The opinion comes from Stuart R. Delery, John F. Walsh, Beth C. Brinkmann, Mark B. Stern and Alisa B. Klein, all of whom are attorneys listed on the arguments submitted to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a case brought by the Newland family and their company, Hercules Industries, against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the pro-abortion former governor of Kansas.

A district judge ordered that the new abortifacient mandate in Obamacare, which requires employers to pay for abortifacients for employees, not be applied against Hercules pending the resolution of the dispute, which also has been raised in dozens of other court cases.

At issue is the Obamacare promotion of abortion services, such as the morning-after pill. Obamacare demands that employers provide that coverage to workers, regardless of the religious beliefs of company owners.

While business owners argue the government cannot simply order them to violate their faith, the government says it can.

“The contraceptive-coverage requirement does not impose a substantial burden on any exercise of religious by Hercules Industries or the Newlands,” the government attorneys told the appeals court.

“It is common ground that a religious organization can engage in the exercise of religion, and other federal statutes grant religious organizations the prerogative to discriminate on the basis of religion in the terms and conditions of employment. But Hercules Industries is not a religious organization. It is a for-profit employer that manufactures HVAC equipment.

“Thus, Hercules Industries’ plan must afford the company’s employees and their family members the employee benefits required by law,” the attorneys said.

But what about companies where the owners have established and run their company based on their own biblical beliefs?

Too bad, the federal attorneys said.

“The personal religious beliefs of the corporation’s officers and controlling shareholders, the Newlands, cannot provide a basis for the Hercules Industries plan,” they wrote.

The federal attorneys explained that the Obamacare mandate does not require the Newlands to do anything, but rather requires their corporation to act.

“They do not have to use or buy contraceptives for themselves or anyone else,” the attorneys said.

But their corporation does, they explain.

Officials with the Alliance Defending Freedom said the brief in support of Obamacare holds dangerous precedents.

Said Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman, “Every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith. 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 has its way. In appealing the district court’s order that halted the mandate against Hercules, the administration sent a clear message that it wants to force families to abandon their faith in order to earn a living. That’s the opposite of religious freedom.”

The mandate actually has flopped in the courts, with dozens of case pending.

The ADF noted recently that the Obama administration has suffered 10 losses and only four victories in defending the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s abortion-pill mandate in court, a losing record the alliance of attorneys advocating religious freedom celebrates.

Other cases have been brought by Tyndale House Publishers of Carol Stream, Ill., the world’s largest privately held Christian publisher of books, Bibles and digital media. Technically owned by the non-profit Tyndale House Foundation, the publisher furthermore directs 96.5 percent of its profits to religious non-profit causes worldwide and specifically objects to covering abortifacient drugs in its employee health plans.

Bowman had argued in court that regardless of Tyndale House’s for-profit status, its religious freedoms are protected by the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ultimately agreed, issuing a preliminary injunction order against the mandate, accompanied by an opinion from U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton.

“The beliefs of Tyndale and its owners are indistinguishable,” Walton opined. “Christian principles, prayer and activities are pervasive at Tyndale, and the company’s ownership structure is designed to ensure that it never strays from its faith-oriented mission. The Court has no reason to doubt, moreover, that Tyndale’s religious objection to providing insurance coverage for certain contraceptives reflects the beliefs of Tyndale’s owners. Nor is there any dispute that Tyndale’s primary owner, the Foundation, can ‘exercise religion’ in its own right, given that it is a non-profit religious organization.”

The ADF similarly pointed to the lawsuit filed on behalf of a non-profit college, Louisiana College v. Sebelius, in which a federal judge refused to grant the Obama administration’s motion to dismiss.

The ADF notes its attorneys and allied attorneys are also litigating several other lawsuits against the mandate: one in Minnesota on behalf of Annex Medical, Inc.; another one in Indiana on behalf of Indiana’s Grace College and Seminary and California’s Biola University; and one in Pennsylvania on behalf of Geneva College and The Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company and its owners, the Hepler family.

A few weeks ago, a federal judge in Michigan said he would halt the federal government’s enforcement of the Obamacare mandate that employers pay for abortifacients regardless of their religious views.

Writing that “a preliminary injunction would serve the public interest,” Judge Robert H. Cleland said he would issue the order in a case involving Daniel Weingartz and his company, Weingartz Supply.

“The potential for harm to plaintiffs exists, and with the showing plaintiffs have made thus far of being able to convincingly prove their case at trial, it is properly characterized as irreparable,” he wrote.

“The loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury,” Cleland wrote. “The harm in delaying the implementation of a statute that may later be deemed constitutional must yield to the risk presented here of substantially infringing the sincere exercise of religious beliefs. The balance of harms tips strongly in plaintiffs’ favor. A preliminary injunction is warranted.”

It was Obama himself who said his “Christian faith” has guided his presidency, and, “In a changing world my commitment to protecting religious liberty is and always will be unwavering.”

Obama’s statement:

Other lawsuits have been filed by Wheaton College in Illinois, Catholic University of America, University of Notre Dame, the Archdiocese of New York and the Catholic University of America.

And leaders of of a number of religious-advocacy groups are warning of the Obamacare contraception mandate consequences for business owners of faith: