Judges weigh religious exemption for health law

Contraceptive mandate in health care law violates some business owners' religious views.
Associated Press
Sep 24, 2013

A federal appeals court is considering whether for-profit businesses can be exempted from a contraceptive mandate in the health care law because of the owners' religious views.

The law already exempts houses of worship from the requirement, but two brothers who own businesses in Ohio argue they shouldn't have to comply. The brothers, Francis and Philip M. Gilardi, say the requirement would force them to violate their Roman Catholic religious beliefs and moral values by providing contraceptives such as the Plan B pill for their employees.

At a hearing on Tuesday, Judge Harry T. Edwards was skeptical of the Gilardis' argument. He told their lawyer, Francis Manion, that sometimes religious freedom has to yield to the greater good. Edwards stressed that the Giraldis' companies, Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics of Sidney, Ohio, are not religious groups.

"I don't know see how the government doesn't prevail," said Edwards, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter.

The other two judges on the panel didn't indicate how they are leaning in the argument, but they had more pointed questions for Justice Department lawyer Alisa Klein than they did for Manion.

Judge Janice Rogers Brown, an appointee of President George W. Bush, asked Klein whether the government is asking the Giraldis to give up their constitutional rights. Klein responded that the Giraldis weren't making a constitutional claim, but rather seeking an injunction under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Brown asked Klein whether she's saying that for religiously observant owners of corporations there is no right to free exercise of religion.

"There is no substantial burden on shareholders," Klein responded, adding that it is the corporation that has to meet the obligation.

In dismissing the Giraldis' bid for an injunction, trial court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan had rejected their contention that requiring the companies to comply with the contraceptive mandate was the same as requiring the Giraldis themselves to do so.

"The Freshway Corporations are engaged in purely commercial conduct and do not exercise religion" under the applicable law, Sullivan wrote.

In court papers, the Giraldis argued that corporations can and often do engage in "quintessentially religious acts such as tithing, donating money to charities, and committing to act in accordance with the teachings of a religious faith," as they contended their businesses do. They say they face more than $14.4 million in annual penalties if they don't comply with the contraceptive mandate.

A separate appeals court panel has barred the government from enforcing the mandate against the Giraldis while they appeal their case.

The case comes as two other appeals court circuits have issued conflicting rulings in similar cases. The Obama administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a case involving the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and its sister company, Mardel Christian bookstore. The Oklahoma businesses won a temporary exemption from having to cover morning-after pills, similar emergency birth control methods and intrauterine devices, after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the companies were likely to prevail in the case.

But the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Mennonite owners of a Pennsylvania furniture manufacturing company who claimed that their constitutional rights were violated by the contraceptive requirement.


Truth or Dare

Well now, I guess that business would feel much better passing out healthcare $$$$'s for a family of, let's say with a husband and wife team, a family of 12! The average (fertile) woman can birth from 12-15 children in her lifetime. Chances of not all 12-15 surviving, or a portion of them being born with complications is fairly good! It has a lot to do with a woman's reproductive system and her physical ability to bounce back after multiple births. Thanks, but no thanks!

I am not a member of any Union, although from the sounds of things it may be time to contact someone regarding forming one at my place of employment. I'm also not gay or a lesbian, nor do I support their special interest groups. Although I will say this, homosexual is homosexual, whether male or female, and it's not one iota my business as long as they're not making passes at me or my spouse!

I don't even donate to Planned Parenthood, or all those orgs. out their for Women. Another thing I don't donate to is politics. Why bother when all an election is, is the one w/the most money winning? Not a strict party ticket voter here, but there isn't one Republican and only a few Democrats that'll get any kind of vote from me. As for the Churches, I guess the federal grant $$$$'s going to them is a trade off for the laws enacted to help try to protect one's PERSONAL civil/human rights regarding something as basic as a woman's personal choice in regards to reproduction and their ACCESSIBLITY to birth control! That's the topic here, not unions, gay rights. I don't expect you to get it. You don't have too. What I see is a perfect example of what many refer to as "sheep", some 1.2 BILLION strong, and that's only one organized (much like unions) religious and political group that has crossed the line.