The U.S. Supreme Court has declared in the Hobby Lobby case that Washington cannot force owners of closely held companies to violate their faith to accommodate the bureaucrats running Obamacare.
So what would give the government the authority to order anyone else to do that?
The question could be answered in a case before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Missouri state Rep. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, and his wife, Teresa, sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Labor and Treasury departments in August 2013 because the contraceptive benefit under Obamacare violates their Catholic faith.
They argue the government has no authority to demand they have an insurance policy that provides birth control, including abortion-causing drugs, for their adult daughters.
The case is being handled by attorney Timothy Belz, who is working in cooperation with the Thomas More Society of Chicago.
He calls the contraceptive mandate a “wrecking ball in the cathedral of conscience.”
He told WND that Missouri lawmakers had adopted a law that allowed employers and employees to choose whether or not to have birth-control coverage.
The simple law accommodated the consciences of everyone, Belz said. He said 10,000 of the 100,000 employees covered under the plan opted out of birth-control coverage.
But the Missouri plan lasted only until bureaucrats in Washington writing the regulations for the Obamacare law ruled everyone must pay, no matter what.
So the Wielands brought their lawsuit last year, arguing they should be allowed to opt out of the coverage requirements.
“Certainly, if an employer doesn’t have to provide employees with contraceptives, Mom and Dad don’t have to give their college-age daughters contraceptives,” he told WND.
Belz explained that under the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, the government must find the least intrusive way to carry out its “compelling interests.”
The religious freedom law was cited in the Hobby Lobby case in the Supreme Court, which ruled the federal government could not impose its birth-control demands on the company’s owners, because it could accomplish its aims through other means.
The same argument holds for the Wielands, Belz told WND.
“The government has an opportunity to come and say, ‘We have a compelling interest. There’s no narrower way to do it,'” Belz said.
But that argument collapsed in the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case, he said, and should again in the case brought by the Wielands.
“The government cannot [make] us be agents to deliver contraceptives,” he said.
The Wielands’ daughters, though no longer living at home, were covered by the couple’s insurance. And that’s why the coverage for birth control became objectionable, he said.
“If Barack Obama and his HHS want to send a package of contraceptive tablets to our college-age daughters every month, they can do that,” he said.
But Belz said the parents should not be made co-conspirators with the administration.
The case was rejected at the district court level by a judge who decided the couple had no “standing,” because they wouldn’t be able to get the kind of insurance policy they want in Missouri anyway.
But it’s most recently been argued before the 8th Circuit, where the plaintiffs now await a ruling.
While the White House has allowed numerous exemptions from Obamacare’s requirements for political and financial purposes, it has declined to offer exemptions for many faith organizations or individuals.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby set up more exemptions for specific types of corporate owners. And there have been exemptions created for Christian colleges and others.
But even the rules adopted by the administration after the Supreme Court’s ruling fall short of addressing conscience concerns triggered by the law.
The government, for example, in response to objections from the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor to “facilitating” abortions, is offering a different way to authorize the coverage, not an exemption.
Well-known evangelical leader James Dobson has waged his own campaign in opposition of the mandate.
WND reported when Dobson praised a court decision striking Obamacare’s birth-control mandate requirements against his Christian organization, Family Talk.
At the time, he wrote: “We are celebrating and thanking the Lord this morning. Victory is ours. We won our case against [former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius and the Obama administration.”
Dobson said Judge Blackburn “wrote a powerful statement, which even used pro-life language, (i.e., referring to a ‘human fetus’).”
“He defended my right to follow the dictates of my conscience. It was eloquent,” he wrote.
Dobson explained then what the ministry and its few dozen employees were facing.
“The mandate requiring that we provide abortifacients such as the morning after pill would have begun on May 1st. After that, if we hadn’t prevailed, fines amounting to $800,000 per year would have kicked in,” he said.
“We would have closed our doors.”
He also recalled what he had written earlier about the issue in a commentary.
“I believe in the rule of law, and it has been my practice since I was in college to respect and honor those in authority over us,” he wrote. “It is my desire to do so now. However, this assault on the sanctity of human life takes me where I cannot go. I WILL NOT pay the surcharge for abortion services. The amount of the surcharge is irrelevant. To pay one cent for the killing of babies is egregious to me, and I will do all I can to correct a government that lies to me about its intentions and then tries to coerce my acquiescence with extortion. It would be a violation of my most deeply held convictions to disobey what I consider to be the principles in Scripture. The Creator will not hold us guiltless if we turn a deaf ear to the cries of His innocent babies. So come and get me if you must, Mr. President. I will not bow before your wicked regulation.”
The Family Talk case was among more than 100 lawsuits brought by religious ministries, individuals and organizations and companies against Obama’s health-care takeover on the grounds it violates the religious rights of Christians by forcing them to pay for abortion-causing procedures.
In the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision knocking down the Obamacare demands for Hobby Lobby owners, the justices found that the text of RFRA “shows that Congress designed the statute to provide very broad protection for religious liberty and did not intend to put merchants to such a choice.”
Justice Samuel Alito said “the purpose of extending rights to corporations is to protect the rights of people associated with the corporation, including shareholders, officers, and employees.”
“Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of humans who own and control them.”
While the Wielands case may have been the first of its type, the Alliance Defending Freedom says the concern continues to spread.
The group reported Friday that it and the Life Legal Defense Fund had filed a related complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over the California Department of Managed Health Care’s decision to force Loyola Marymount University and its employees to pay for elective abortions in their health insurance plans.
The organizations represent seven employees who do not want a plan covering elective abortions and allege that DMHC’s coercion of abortion coverage violates federal law.
“Forcing a Christian university to facilitate elective abortion is an assault on our most fundamental American freedoms,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “California is violating the federal law that protects employers and employees from being strong-armed into having abortion in their health insurance plans. No state can ignore federal law and continue to unlawfully receive taxpayer money. So California has a choice: Stop forcing these employers to cover abortion or forfeit the tens of billions of dollars it receives under the condition that it follow the law.”
LLDF Legal Director Catherine Short said that under federal law, pro-life employers “have the freedom to choose health insurance plans that do not conflict with their beliefs on the dignity of human life.”
“Already under Obamacare’s mandates, employers and individuals are required to purchase health insurance coverage they may not need or want,” she said. “California cannot be allowed to discriminate against health plans that don’t cover elective abortions and force people to purchase coverage that conflicts with their convictions.”