Are you paying attention? Because this is what the slow leak of liberty looks like.
Earlier this year, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued regulations requiring health insurance plans to cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including abortifacients. The alternative? A fine of roughly $100 per employee per day.
Today–August 1st, 2012–is the day that mandate kicks in.
The Catholic Church, of course, teaches that sterilization, contraception and abortion are immoral. In June Catholic bishops in the U.S. unanimously adopted a statement declaring the regulations “unjust,” “illegal,” and a “violation of personal civil rights.”
It’s not just big entities like Notre Dame that are affected by this mandate. Every business employing 50 employees or more is subject to the requirement.
So what happens now?
Let’s look at one business: Hercules Industries of Denver. Opened in 1962, the family heating, ventilation and air conditioning business is now owned and operated by the second and third generations: three sons, a daughter and a grandson of the original owners.
Hercules brought suit against Sebelius and HHS in June. The Newland family argued that the mandate violates their religious freedom:
The Newlands sincerely believe that . . . according to the Catholic faith their operation of Hercules must be guided by ethical social principles and Catholic religious and moral teachings, that the adherence of their business practice 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 Justice Department responded that if the Newlands’ faith prevented them from complying with the mandate, they were free.
Free to give up their business, that is:
[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.
The family said, in a reply noteworthy for its understated restraint:
[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 Justice Department also argued that because Hercules is a for-profit corporation, not an individual, it is not protected by the First Amendment. In their reply, the Newlands pointed out that this position would affect not only family businesses run by Catholics but, oh, say, every newspaper and TV station in the country:
If for-profit corporations can have no First Amendment “purpose,” newspapers and other media would have no rights.
Stop for just a moment and imagine our country without freedom of the press.
Oh, I know, it could never happen here.
But would you have ever thought, even five years ago, that Catholics would be forced to choose between their faith and their job?
Last Friday, a federal judge in Colorado issued an injunction that temporarily halts enforcement of the mandate against Hercules while he hears the case. Judge John L. Kane said that the possible harm to the Administration caused by granting the injunction:
pales in comparison to the possible infringement upon Plaintiffs’ constitutional and statutory rights.
Kane also said that the public interest in improving the health of women and children is:
countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion. As the Tenth Circuit has noted, “there is a strong public interest in the free exercise of religion even where that interest may conflict with [another statutory scheme.] . . .”
But what happens if Judge Kane rules against the Newlands after he’s heard the case? And what happens to every other business owner in the country employing 50 or more employees who has a conscientious objection to contraception, sterilization and/or abortion?
Under the law, the business owners have three options. They can:
- violate the teachings of their faith,
- sell their business, or
- pay the fines.
In the Newlands’ case, with 265 employees, $100 per employee per day would amount to $26,500 a day, or $9,672,500 a year.
This is serious business, folks. Remember your high school American Government class? Remember why we’re a republic, not a true democracy? Because democracy is the rule of the majority. And we said we wanted to protect the rights of the minorities.
Today we’ve abandoned that credo.
Today we’ve become a budding totalitarian government demanding that religious minorities bow the knee to Caesar or feel the cold, crushing grip of his iron fist.
Today we’ve set off down a winding path in a dark, dark forest.
It’s not yet too late to turn around.
But if we don’t, God only knows where it will end.