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Hercules Battles HHS

Facing an August 1 deadline, the Newland family, owners of Hercules Industries in Colorado, is seeking a court injunction to stave off the federal mandate that all new health plans cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.  A private business, Hercules Industries does not fall under the narrow religious exemption of the mandate, so it would be required to include such coverage in its self-insured plan when it renews this fall.  However, the business owners have a faith-based objection to such a change. 

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF – formerly Alliance Defense Fund) has taken up the case on behalf of the Newlands in Newland v. Sebelius.  The Administration is opposing the injunction request and the “plaintiffs’ effort to bring about an unprecedented expansion of constitutional and statutory free exercise rights.”  Responding to the Government’s rebuttal, ADF declared:

There is no business exception in RFRA or the Free Exercise Clause. Nothing in the Constitution, the Supreme Court’s decisions, or federal law requires—or even suggests—that families forfeit their religious liberty protection when they try to earn a living, such as by operating a corporate business…. Congress did not adopt the government’s proposed prohibition on free exercise of religion in business. Instead, RFRA requires strict scrutiny whenever a government action substantially burdens religion. The Mandate here forces the Newland family and the entity through which they act, Hercules Industries, Inc., to choose between violating their religious beliefs, paying fines on their property, or abandoning business altogether. This pressure constitutes a substantial burden on religious exercise.

ADF and Government attorneys made oral arguments before a U.S. District Court Judge on Wednesday and are awaiting a ruling on the injunction request.

 By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations

Published: July 27, 2012