The livelihood and religious freedom of countless private employers hangs in the balance tomorrow, August 1. The following are some excerpts from information provided by the Catholic Association who have been at the forefront of this battle:
Last week, a federal court dealt a major blow to the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring employers to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs in their healthcare plans. In the first-ever legal victory against the mandate, the court granted a temporary injunction to the family-owned Hercules Industries in Colorado.
Andy Newland, Vice President of Hercules Industries comments about the battle he has been thrown into, “We never imagined the federal government would order our family business to provide insurance for drugs we object to covering. If you put yourself back to when the founders founded America, it seems so contradictory to their intention that Americans be free to live out their beliefs in a country that was created for freedom from religious persecution.”
The Obama administration argued that employers have no conscience rights if they engage in a for-profit business, and therefore the business owners – the Newland family – ought to be subject to millions of dollars in fines per year for non-compliance.
While this was a significant victory, it is only applies to the Newlands, and it is only temporary. The livelihood and religious freedom of countless other private employers hangs in the balance on as of tomorrow.
Tomorrow indeed marks a seismic shift in the world of religious liberty in America. Once the mandate goes into effect, the government has codified into law the notion that employers may be required to violate the teachings of their faith if they are a for-profit employer.
Religiously affiliated non-profits who qualify for a one year “safe harbor” will have one year to get used to the fact that they will no longer have conscience rights. For the first time in American history, the government is sending the message to Americans that they are “loaning” out religious freedom with an expiration date of August 1, 2013.
Three Categories of Compliance:
Category 1: For-Profit Employers
For-profit private employers do not qualify for the one-year safe harbor and are thus completely unprotected as of August 1. This is especially harmful to small and family-owned businesses that tend to have boutique or custom insurance plans to conform to religious or value-oriented workplace cultures. Many businesses are suing the Obama administration seeking immediate relief from the August 1 deadline. The penalty for non-compliance is $100 per day, per employee. For the Newland family business, the fines would add up to millions of dollars per year.
Category 2: Groups in Limbo
Some employers do not yet know if they qualify for the safe harbor. They may only object to some but not all of the services – for example, the evangelical college Wheaton, which has also filed suit against the Administration, objects to abortion-causing drugs but not contraception. These employers are left completely in the dark as to what will happen to them on August 1 and whether or not they will be slapped with crippling fines.
Category 3: Religiously Affiliated Employers
Objecting employers with a religious affiliation are essentially left with one year to scramble. The so-called accommodation, which has not been implemented, was widely rejected as an accounting gimmick. Even Sister Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association (and a supporter of the President’s health care plan), originally supported the accommodation but after closer examination, called it unacceptable and unworkable. These religious entities are left with no option but to wait one more year before they have to begin violating the teachings of their faith or pay severe fines.
If you find yourself at Chick-fil-A tomorrow bowing your head before your meal, give thanks to God for your religious freedom to pray in public, and ask him to have mercy on our great nation.