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Obama administration: secular employers ‘generally’ lack constitutionally-protected religious freedom

Catholic World News - August 01, 2012

In arguing against a firm’s attempt to block application of the HHS mandate, lawyers for the Department of Justice stated that “for-profit, secular employers generally do not engage in any exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment.”

A federal judge in Colorado gave a preliminary legal victory to the privately owned business on July 27, granting an injunction to stop the implementation of the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate.

“A secular entity by definition does not practice religion,” the Obama administration had argued in its filing. “The Newlands nonetheless claim that the regulations substantially burden their religious exercise because the regulations may require the group health plan sponsored by their secular company to provide health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage.”

“Plaintiffs’ challenge rests largely on the theory that a for-profit, secular corporation … can claim to exercise a religion and thereby avoid the reach of laws designed to regulate commercial activity,” the administration added. “This cannot be … Hercules Industries’ desire not to make available a health plan that permits such individuals to exercise their own choice as to contraceptive use must yield to the Government’s compelling interest in avoiding the adverse and unfair consequences that would be suffered by such individuals as a result of the company’s decision.”

Defending the HHS mandate, the attorneys added:

Lack of contraceptive use has proven in many cases to have negative health consequences for both women and a developing fetus … Accordingly, through the requirement that health coverage includecoverage for contraceptive services without cost-sharing, defendants seek to further an indisputably compelling interest in the promotion of women’s health and the health of potential newborn children.

Contraceptive coverage, by reducing the number of unintended and potentially unhealthy pregnancies, furthers the goal of eliminating this disparity by allowing women to achieve equal status as healthy and productive members of the job force … Congress’s attempt to equalize the provision of preventive health care services, with the resultant benefit of women being able to contribute to the same degree as men as healthy and productive members of society, furthers a compelling governmental interest.

The Obama administration’s filing acknowledges that “Plan B and similar drugs” work in three ways: “by delaying or inhibiting ovulation, and/or altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova (thereby inhibiting fertilization), and/or altering the endometrium (thereby inhibiting implantation).”

Even while acknowledging that such drugs can inhibit the implantation of an embryo that has already been conceived, the filing--citing the Food and Drug Adminstration--insists that the drugs do not act as abortifacients.

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: unum - Aug. 02, 2012 7:58 AM ET USA

    The Obama administration is claiming that the freedom of religion in the Constitution applies only to "religious" institutions and that individual citizens have no right to freely practice their religious beliefs. This is a further attempt by the government to redefine freedom of religion as "freedom to worship", and displays a complete ignorance of the intent of America's founders. America's freedom of religion belongs to its citizens, not to "secular entities".

  • Posted by: JR - Aug. 02, 2012 7:44 AM ET USA

    The Obama administration understands that things would be better all around if only women could be more like men, and work without interruption of their work careers. Motherhood evidently is a disease to be treated, a "disparity" to be rectified, by induced infertility. And who can dispute that unwanted children benefit by not existing?

  • Posted by: Justin8110 - Aug. 01, 2012 3:51 PM ET USA

    As Catholics we cannot separate our Faith from any aspect of our lives, including the way we educate our children, the way we run our cities or the way we do business. We cannot just suspend our religious beliefs in order to pursue a secular agenda of "business as usual". The State has no authority over the Church or our Lord Jesus Christ. May all Catholics have the courage to let their Faith color everything they do no matter the consequences in this life.

  • Posted by: andrew5631 - Aug. 01, 2012 9:39 AM ET USA

    I am in disbelief over the statement "Lack of contraceptive use has proven in many cases to have negative health consequences for both women and a developing fetus"? In what world does making life impossible equate to "promotion of...the health of potential newborn children"? Of course, the real problem is the scourge of fecundity, which keeps women from "being able to contribute to the same degree as men as healthy and productive members of society". Down with motherhood!

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