Not long ago, Denver officials announced their intention to honor 50 years of distinguished service to their community by Hercules Industries, a national HVAC manufacturing company based in the city, with a proclamation citing, among other things:
- The company’s successful restoration and practical use of Denver’s historic 1890 Overland Cotton Mill, a structure now listed on the National Register of Historic Places;
- Its receipt of this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Business Social Responsibility Award, for raising donations for victims and fighters of the recent wildfires across Colorado; and
- Its cultivation of a diverse workforce and compassionate care for its employees, as “evidenced by its generous employee health care coverage and apprenticeship program.”
However, that last point became a sticky wicket for Denver officials when Hercules won a court order in its lawsuit against the Obama administration challenging the constitutionality of the government’s new abortion pill mandate. Because the Newlands (the family that owns and operates Hercules) take their faith and the sanctity of life seriously, their “generous employee health coverage” stops short of underwriting things like abortion pills.
Administration attorneys say the Newlands can’t take that stand — that they somehow forfeited their right to conduct business in accordance with their religious beliefs simply by engaging in private enterprise. Constitutional protections of religious freedom, it seems, no longer apply.
What’s more, if Hercules doesn’t start funding contraception, sterilization, and abortion pills (even though people can easily obtain such things for themselves if they want them), the government pledges to level millions of dollars in fines on the Newlands — enough to bring their company to its knees.
On learning of the Newlands’ lawsuit, Denver officials retracted the proclamation they had initiated. True, Hercules is still a keeper of architectural history, a benefactor of fire victims, and the cultivator of a diverse and well-insured workplace. But what’s all that if the Newlands refuse to violate their own values and help someone do something they consider immoral?
At least one Colorado leader still exhibits some class and political chutzpah: Colorado Speaker of the House Frank McNulty has announced that he will present, on behalf of state legislators, a proclamation virtually identical to the one Denver officials are dropping. Being a man of courage himself, he can appreciate and honor the courage required for a company like Hercules to take on the massive resources of the federal government.
It’s an example lost on the leaders of Denver, where it’s no longer enough to be a productive company providing hundreds of jobs and contributing measurably to the good of the community. One must, first and foremost, be politically correct. And if that means ignoring one’s own conscience, or squelching someone else’s freedom of speech, so be it.
These days, surrendering our freedom is a small price to pay for living in the land of the free.
That, at least, is how the leaders of Denver see it. And if their logic strikes you as a little weak, well, most things do when stood up against Hercules.
Alan Sears is a former federal prosecutor who held various posts in the departments of Justice and Interior during the Reagan administration. He is president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom (www.alliancedefendingfreedom.org), which represents Hercules Industries in federal court.