The HHS mandate: Is violating your faith the cost of doing business?

Your faith can cost you a lot. Under the healthcare law, will it cost you your business?

Religious freedom is at a precipice in America. Your faith can cost you a lot, but now it may cost you your business.

For the first time in our nation’s history, the Supreme Court will determine if the federal government is permitted to force Americans to pay for a service that they find morally objectionable—or face devastating penalties.

On March 25, the Supreme Court will consider two challenges brought by for-profit businesses (Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp.) to ObamaCare’s HHS mandate.

The Obama Administration’s mandate requires that every business that provides group health plans to its employees (which all businesses with more than 50 employees will be required to do) must provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients — abortion pills. The penalty for failure to comply is an astounding $36,500 a year per employee — enough to send any business into bankruptcy.

Regardless of your personal view of contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion pills, millions of Americans find them morally repugnant. Our faith dictates to us that paying for, facilitating, or providing a product that ends the life of an unborn human being is wrong. It’s morally reprehensible. It violates the core of our religious beliefs.

Put another way, the Obama Administration is forcing people of faith to pay for something that they consider sin.

Yet, the Obama Administration says all of that doesn’t matter, because your faith shouldn’t have anything to do with how you conduct your business. The Administration literally argues to the Supreme Court that the religious beliefs of businessmen have no bearing on how they run and operate their businesses.

That’s an astonishingly bold and obtuse characterization of how thousands upon thousands of business owners run and conduct their businesses.

At the ACLJ, we recently filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of nearly 100,000 Americans and 21 individual businesses pointing out the abject absurdity of this argument:

Most, if not all, religious traditions teach that every dimension of one’s life, whether personal or public, in the home or in the workplace, should be directed, first and foremost, by one’s religious commitments. For such people of faith, religion is not a matter of mere taste, preference, or inclination that can be set aside or ignored when materially advantageous to do so. It is a fundamental and guiding principle that shapes how they think, act, and live their lives in the world.

This is no less true when it comes to business, whether working for a company or owning and controlling one.

Freedom of religion means much more than the freedom to live in accordance with the dictates of your faith only while seated in your pew on Sunday morning. It means that we are free to live our lives, direct our communications, determine our associations, build relationships, and yes, conduct business in accordance with our religious beliefs.

The government is no more allowed to direct us to attend a strip club in our free time than it is allowed to force a businessman to pay for abortion pills.

The Obama Administration essentially argues that the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, except in the course of conducting one’s business.”

The Obama Administration specifically argues that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (an extension of the First Amendment’s religious free exercise protections) does not apply to businesses because only the corporation and not the owner is forced to provide the abortion pills to their employees.

How exactly are those insurance plans going to cover abortion pills without the owners’ consent, direction, and funding? It’s a legal absurdity.

Of course, any action a business takes comes at the direction or permission of the owner. And regardless of whether the Obama Administration admits it, such action falls on the owner’s conscience as well.

If religious free exercise doesn’t apply to our business dealings, might it not apply to our recreational actives, our hobbies, how we raise our families, or any other aspect of our life? If the government can tell us that, regardless of our deeply held religious beliefs, we are required to violate them as the price of citizenship, we would have no religious liberty at all.

Nearly 50 years ago, the Supreme Court famously held that neither “students [n]or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Now the Supreme Court will decide whether businessmen shed their right to freedom of religion at the entrance to their storefront.

The stakes could not be higher. More than 45 lawsuits against the mandate have been filed by for-profit businesses, and dozens more have been filed by religious non-profits, that yes, the mandate also forces to pay for abortion pills. The Supreme Court recently issued a stay allowing a group of Catholic nuns to refrain from paying for contraceptives and abortions pills as their case continues. In that case, the Obama Administration’s arguments reach an all-new level of absurdity, even suggesting that religious employers would be better served to just drop their insurance plans altogether.

We at the ACLJ currently represent 32 individuals and corporations in seven pending actions against the government, including a case with a Petition for Certiorari currently pending before the high Court. We have obtained preliminary injunctive relief for our clients — for-profit businesses — in all seven cases.

For-profit is not the abnegation of faith; one does not lay down their conscience to conduct business. In fact, the Bible itself plainly and clearly commands just the opposite. As the Apostle Paul exhorts, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”

The cost of our faith may be high, but it must never be the cost of doing business.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article belong to the authors.  

  • Paul Wilczynski

    You are not your business.

    • Mary Strain

      Interesting article. I’m an ardent supporter of the ACA, but I agree that business owners are not morally divorced from their business decisions; I think they are more or less defined by them. We all agree that the owners of a polluting chemical plant are morally and legally liable for their business decisions. These business owners correctly feel that they’re morally liable for their business decisions, as well.

    • jaspertops

      We may not be our business, but how I run my business is dictated by my moral and ethical foundation, which happens to be rooted in my religious beliefs.

      • jimwilson81

        You hit it right on the nose. Our morality and ethics are formed by our religious foundations. Our honesty and how we treat customers is the very basis of good business. Corrupt businesses usually goes out of business eventually because they have lost their customers due to their dishonesty. It doesn’t always happen that way, but it is one of the main reasons that happens.

      • Candi Huff

        I hear zero respect or care for employees who may have a different religious belief than you do, or even none at all. So long as “your” business is a legal corporate entity, you are subsidized by taxpayer funds and therefore, are NOT allowed to force your religious beliefs upon others, employee or not. Ironic, you own a business to shield yourself from Personal Liability yet claim Personal Religion as a basis for the business. Which is it?

        • jaspertops

          Care for employees extends to their dependents that under Obamacare can be killed off, Yes, I am referring to the unborn child in the womb. Regarding being subsidized by the government, please explain that one. I get no grants, no tax abatements, or any other type of corporate welfare. I am a small business and pay my taxes. Or are you following the argument that I didn’t build my business, that someone else helped me. I am tired of the argument that the government built the roads I drive on and the sewer that I flush my waste down, and the schools that I received my education from. Those were my tax dollars that paid for all that stuff. Does government have a place in society? Yes. Do they have a place in how I run my business? As long as I am not harming the environment or people, NO, THEY DO NOT!!!!!! If I have to run by business like the government functions, then I would rather not be in business, which may happen anyway.

          One more piece of information for your “education”–not all businesses exempt their owners from personal liability. Sole proprietorships and partnerships still leave their owners personally liable. Even under the shelter of a corporate umbrella, my actions can still hold me personally liable if I am the one committing the action that gets me sued.

        • jaspertops

          There is another side of your argument to consider. I am not against offering health care for employees. I am opposed to paying for something that violates my religious beliefs. If an employee were to decide on their own that they want contraception, sterilization, or abortifacient drugs, then they have the right to get those products and services on their own, just not with my dime and not through the health insurance that my company offers and has to pay for.

          • jimlouvier

            If it’s against your beliefs, don’t use it. You can’t pick and choose what your generalized plan will cover for your employees of varied faiths. You realize that the money paid to cover their insurance, goes into a pool that also pays for other people’s healthcare? So no matter what you would be paying for birth control. Which has more than one purpose, and it does not end pregnancies. Learn a little about what you are whining about. All you’re upset about is that people are finally standing up to religious sects and ending christian privilege in this country.

          • jaspertops

            The birth control has been available for a very long time without it being considered part of preventive care. If birth control is about preventive care, then any of my blood pressure medication should also be about preventive care. I don’t see the federal government rushing in to make it part of mandatory coverage. I still have to pay for them. If we are going to be fair, then all drugs of a preventive care category should be free. Until then, I don’t consider my position whining.

          • jaspertops

            If it is my business, I most certainly do have the right to pick and choose the benefits that I would offer my employees. It is also the very same right that if the government can force their religious beliefs or lack thereof on me or my business, then I have the right to close that very same business and force all of the employees out on the street. Then they can qualify for subsidized ACA and get their birth control, abortifacient drugs, and sterilization, all for free. Yet I will still have to pay for my blood pressure medication. And if you argue that my lifestyle can be changed so as to eliminate my need for the blood pressure medication, then the same argument can be made for a lifestyle change so that birth control, abortifacient drugs, and sterilization is not required. Which is it? You can’t have it both ways!!!!

      • Varia Vespasa

        Because I can- Corporations are now people, and if theyre a person then the owner isnt entitled to force his religious views on another person, and thus cant dictate to the corporation….

        • jaspertops

          Just because I refuse to pay for something that violates my religious tenets does not mean I am forcing my employees to not partake of that very thing. How the employee spends their money is their business. For me, it is not an issue of forcing my beliefs on another, it is forcing me to pay for another’s belief. In this case, if you as an employee want to use abortifacient drugs or get sterilized, go for it. Just don’t ask me to pay for it–either directly or indirectly. This way, you may have your right to participate in an activity and my right to not participate is still protected.

  • etseq

    Oh joy…Right wing agit prop still welcome at On Faith I see…

  • Liz

    If the founders had intended for an individual’s business to be considered separately from the individual, wouldn’t they have made that clear almost 250 years ago?

  • francis

    Impeachments and High Treason and Murder gangs

  • Candi Huff

    It blows my mind that people think Freedom of Religion gives them the right to force that religion on others. The moment a person takes the leap to taxpayer subsidized business owner, they lose the ability to run that establishment counter to law, period. The fix is easy, stop taking taxpayer subsidized tax benefits for your business, go back to being a 1099 contractor and 1099 out to any employees you hire. That way they can be responsible for their own insurance. Sure, you’ll make a ton less, but that’s the price you pay to be allowed to be a bigot. Try it, see how many folks want to work for you.

    • jaspertops

      How do you figure that a fringe benefit offered to an employee is a tax subsidy? By your way of thinking, then any expense that the business incurs that deducts from gross revenue is a tax subsidy. That would mean that you are advocating for a tax on gross revenues and not income. If the employer pays for the insurance, it becomes a cost of business to be deducted from the gross revenue and paying tax on the net income. If you approach it from the side of the employee, the benefit is a tax free benefit for that same employee and not added to the employee’s gross wages. So if any one is getting the tax subsidy, it is the employee.

      The regulations and all the other hoops I have to jump through is one reason that my business is a small family business with no employees