HHS mandate: court sides with Obama administration against Mennonite-owned firm
February 12, 2013
Siding with the Obama administration, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has refused to issue an injunction against the HHS mandate in a lawsuit filed by Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. and its Mennonite owners. In its 2-1 decision, the appeals court ruled that the lawsuit had little chance of success.
The firm, which makes cabinets and employs 950, faces fines of $95,000 per day if it is not purchase insurance that covers contraception, sterilizations, and abortifacients, which the firm’s owners believe are “sinful and immoral.”
“For-profit corporate entities, unlike religious non-profit organizations, do not — and cannot — legally claim a right to exercise or establish a corporate religion under the First Amendment,” wrote Judge Leonard Garth, a 91-year-old Nixon appointee. Judge Garth was joined in the 2-1 decision by Judge Marjorie Rendell, a Clinton appointee who until recently was wife of the governor of Pennsylvania.
In his dissenting opinion, Judge Kent Jordan, an appointee of the first President Bush, wrote:
The government does not contend that the regulations at issue are anything less than anathema to the Hahns because of those deeply held religious beliefs. Nor does it take issue with the Hahns’ assertion that, unless they submit to the offending regulations, Conestoga will be fined on a scale that will rapidly destroy the business and the 950 jobs that go with it. Finally, the government does not argue that the choice being pressed upon Conestoga and the Hahns – namely, to pay for what those parties view as life-destroying drugs and procedures or to watch their business be destroyed by government fines – is somehow merely theoretical …
The harm threatened here is great … If government action presents such a threat, it is no answer to cite, as the government does, a litany of laudatory things that the government may also be doing at the same time. The government is at pains to point out, for example, that the “preventive health services provisions [of the ACA] require coverage of an array of recommended services including immunizations, blood pressure screening, mammograms, cervical cancer screening, and cholesterol screening.”
The question posed by the Hahns and Conestoga, however, is not whether mammograms or screening for high cholesterol or cervical cancer are valuable health services. The question is not even whether the abortifacient drugs and sterilization procedures that they view as life-destroying and therefore impossible to support can rightly be viewed by other people as praiseworthy. The Hahns and Conestoga pose a very different and precise question: they turn to their government and ask, can you rightly make us pay for something poisonous to our religious beliefs or face the destruction of our business. It evidently matters not one whit to them how healthful the banquet they are told to buy may otherwise be, if the menu contains a toxic item too. “There’s just one fatal dish,” is non-responsive to their point, which is that their religious liberty is directly threatened by the government’s edict.