Automotive Manufacturer Owners Seek Constitutional Protection of Religious Freedom
Contact: Tom Ciesielka, 312-422-1333, firstname.lastname@example.org
(October 15, 2013 – Kentwood, Michigan) Today, the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm, joined forces with Catholic Vote Legal Defense Fund and a Michigan law firm, to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ recent decision, denying the claims of Autocam, an international automotive manufacturer, and its owners, that Obamacare’s so-called “HHS mandate” abridges their federal constitutional and statutory rights to the free exercise of their religious faith as well as other legal rights. John Kennedy, CEO of Michigan-based family-owned company, Autocam, joined the company as well as its other family owners to urge the Justices to rule that the government has no right to require that Autocam purchase group insurance coverage, providing its employees with morally objectionable contraceptives, including abortifacients (e.g., the so-called abortion pill, Plan B, and “Ella”), and sterilization.
Kennedy and his family all faithfully embrace the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church that contraception, abortion, and sterilization are serious wrongs. The HHS mandate, therefore, forces these petitioners to flout their deeply held religious convictions and operate their company in a manner that they sincerely hold to constitute grave wrongdoing.
Prior to the government’s implementation of the HHS mandate, Autocam had specifically designed a health insurance plan with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan to exclude contraception, sterilization, abortion, and abortion-inducing drugs, in full accord and harmony with its owners’ profound religious beliefs.
“Forcing citizens to violate their conscientious religious beliefs makes a mockery of the very notion of religious freedom,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society. “This cannot be tolerated in a society that professes to honor fundamental civil liberties.” Even apart from the constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and free speech, the company and its owners are also protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits the federal government from substantially burdening the free exercise of religion, absent a compelling interest for doing so and then only by resort to the least burdensome means. But the petitioners for Supreme Court review contend that providing insurance for birth control or other products or services that are widely available and affordable hardly qualifies as a compelling interest, and that even if that interest were deemed compelling, the government could have opted to use other means – such as providing free contraceptives, abortifacients, or sterilizations free of charge, or subsidizing their cheap and easy accessibility for all those desiring them, without burdening or curtailing anybody else’s religious liberties.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of the lawsuit on the ground that conducting business for profit is somehow wholly divorced from the religious beliefs of the business or its owners and operators. But Brejcha criticizes this ruling as reflecting a crabbed and unduly narrow view of religion, confining it to the sacred space inside the four walls of houses of worship. He argues that that morals as well as money-making have a key role to play in the marketplace; that religious faith shapes, informs and sustains one’s morals; and that a robust or meaningful religious faith must be practiced as well as professed in every aspect of life. He concludes, “Indeed, our criminal laws demand that American businesses as well as their owners act in accord with myriad laws designed to serve the public welfare and the common good, rather than maximization of profits. People of faith must not be coerced to check their religious liberties at the door when they enter the commercial marketplace.”
Read the Autocam petition filed with the United States Supreme Court here.