Thank goodness the federal government has made it possible for all of those capitalists entrepreneurs to succeed.
For example, consider William E. Newland who founded Hercules Industries (HI) in 1962 as a family owned and operated heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning business in Colorado.
Five decades later, William, Paul, and James Newland, along with their sister, Christine Ketterhagen, own HI which boasts 265 employees.
More important than all of that success—that’s due, as President Obama reecently reminded the nation, to the federal government’s largess—CNSNews.com reports that the Newlands are Roman Catholic. Better yet, HI offers its employees a self-insurance plan, providing generous healthcare coverage that’s consistent with Church moral teaching. That is, the plan doesn’t cover sterilizations, artificial contraceptives, or abortifacients.
And, because of that, HI now finds itself in the crosshairs of legal jeopardy…all due to the federal government.
HI must comply by August 1, 2012, with the mandate issued by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in February 2012 which requires businesses having more than 50 employees to provide health insurance to their employees—including free sterilizations, artificial contraceptives, and abortafacients—or pay a penalty.
With 265 employees, HI will have to pay the federal government $26.5k/day if HI doesn’t comply with the Sebelius mandate and provided insurance to its employees anyway. The annual cost to HI will be ~$9.7M.
Much to their credit, the Newlands aren’t taking this matter sitting down and have decided not to comply. Instead, they’ve filed a lawsuit, Newlands v. Sebelius et al., alleging that they can’t comply with the mandate without violating their religious faith. The lawsuit states:
The Newlands sincerely believe that the Catholic faith does not allow them to violate Catholic religious and moral teachings in their decisions operating Hercules Industries.
The Newlands believe that according to the Catholic faith, their operation of Hercules Industries must be guided by ethical social principles and Catholic religious and moral teachings, that the adherence of their business practice according to such Catholic ethics and religious and moral teachings is a genuine calling from God, that their Catholic faith prohibits them to sever their religious beliefs from their daily business practice, and that their Catholic faith requires them to integrate the gifts of the spiritual life, the virtues, morals, and ethical social principles of Catholic teaching into their life and work.
The Catholic Church teaches that abortafacient drugs, contraception and sterilization are intrinsic evils. As a matter of religious faith the Newlands believe that those Catholic teachings are among the religious ethical teachings they must follow throughout their lives including in their business practice.
Don’t think for one moment that the Obama administration is going to have any of that!
The Justice Department responded by making a formal filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The filing states:
Here, plaintiffs have not sufficiently alleged that the preventive services coverage regulations substantially burden their religious exercise. Hercules Industries, Inc., is not a religious employer; it is “an HVAC manufacturer.”
The First Amendment Complaint does not allege that the company is affiliated with a formally religious entity such as a church. Nor does it allege that the company employs persons of a particular faith. In short, Hercules Industries is plainly a for-profit, secular employer.
By definition, a secular employer does not engage in any “exercise of religion.”
Hercules Industries has “made no showing of a religious belief which requires that [it] engage in the [HVAC] business.” Any burden is therefore caused by the company’s choice to enter into a commercial activity.
Of course, skeptics and cynics will see in the Newlands’ fidelity to Church teaching a bunch of greedy capitalists responding to a profit motive. The Newlands’ simply want to keep their healthcare expenses down in order to increase HI’s profit.
Others are defending the Newlands and HI on the grounds of freedom of religious expression and speech, arguing that the Obama administration is forcing the Newlands to chose between exercising freedom of religion and speech or shuttering HI.
For example, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the Newlands, responded to the Justice Department’s brief:
[T]o the extent the government is arguing that its mandate does not really burden the Newlands because they are free to abandon their jobs, their livelihoods, and their property so that others can take over Hercules and comply, this expulsion from business would be an extreme form of government burden.
The Motley Monk wants to point instead to the Newlands’ fidelity to Church teaching. These are the Catholics who take seriously the challenge that the Second Vatican Council issued to the laity. They are to be a “leaven at work in the world.”
Today, the forces of this world—embodied in the Sebelieus mandate (the demonic irony being that Ms. Sebelius is Catholic)—are presenting the Newlands a “choice” that’s actually “no choice” at all:
- They can shut down HI and add 265 new individuals to the unemployment lines.
- They can sell HI and let the buyers do what they want.
- They can stop providing health insurance through HI, but HI employees will only be able to purchase healthcare insurance that covers artificial contraception, sterilizations, and abortafacients. (The premiums then help pay for those “services” and HI would be required to pay a penalty to the government of ~$2k/year/employee that HI did not insure.)
- They can ignore the Sebelius mandate and continue to provide HI employees healthcare insurance that doesn’t provide “free” coverage for artificial birth control, sterilizations, and abortafacients. (That’s when the federal government will use those 50k new IRS agents to come in and require HI to pay those confiscatory penalties.)
“Witness”—being a leaven at work in the world or, in a previous era, “martyrdom”—never presents a good option.
In this era, it requires Catholics—following the lead of the Newlands as they operate HI—to stand up for the moral teachings of their faith. In this way, they demonstrate their love of God and neighbor as a leaven at work in the world.
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