Last week, Hercules Industries, a heating ventilation and air conditioning manufacturer based in Denver, Colorado, won a preliminary injunction in federal court against Barack Obama’s fiat that all companies pay for the contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients of their employees. Run by a Catholic family with conscientious objections to the mandate, Hercules Industries, which employs roughly 300 workers, was looking at potential fines of over $3 million a year. While the injunction is only temporary and applies to only this one company, it nonetheless represents an important rebuke to the Obama administration — a rebuke from a Jimmy Carter appointee no less.
“On balance, the threatened harm to plaintiffs, impingement of their right to freely exercise their religious beliefs, and the concomitant public interest in that right strongly favor the entry of injunctive relief,” ruled Judge John L. Kane.
The argument used by Obama’s Justice Department lawyers to try and shut down the company’s request for an injunction was telling in its crude secularism: they argued that the Catholic owners of Hercules Industries lost their right to religious liberty the moment they decided to own a business. “Indeed, the Supreme Court has recognized that, ‘[w]hen followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity,” read their motion, as reported by FoxNews.com.
The lawyers for Hercules Industries noted the historical audacity of this claim: “Nothing in the Constitution, the Supreme Court’s decisions, or federal law requires — or even suggests — that families forfeit their religious liberty protection when they try to earn a living, such as by operating a corporate business.”
Only the Obama administration would have the hubris to argue that all businessmen are de facto serfs of the secularist state. Obama has invented a preposterous new right out of thin air — the right to force an employer to pay for one’s sex life — and is willing to impose that phony right on business owners at the expense of their religious freedom.
Punitive fines form the tip on the spear that President Barack Obama is recklessly wielding against the religious. The first to feel its sting will be private business owners. Starting on August 1, companies across the country will face crippling fines if they refuse to comply with President Obama’s contraceptive and abortifacient mandate.
The Congressional Research Service estimates that Obamacare’s tax agents can exact fines of up to $100 per employee, per day, from businesses that object to this decree. For businesses that employ hundreds of workers, this will add up to millions of dollars in fines each year.
Either submit to Obama’s secularist demand or risk bankruptcy. That is now the choice before many family-run businesses.
Religious organizations have until August 1, 2013 to comply with the mandate before they too are fined. “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” remarked Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City after HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced this delay.
But for non-religious employers, the mandate falls on Wednesday and some companies like Hercules Industries are fighting back. Let us hope they succeed. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more shameless violation of the original meaning of the First Amendment than for a president to fine Christian and Jewish business owners for simply adhering to traditional morality. The First Amendment was clearly written not to suppress religious freedom in the public square but to protect it.
The Founding Fathers feared that without such an amendment an arrogant federal government would one day swoop down and crush religious liberty within the states. Alas, that day has now come to pass. No higher power than the federal government exists, according to Obama, and whatever it decrees the people must obey, even at the price of their consciences and souls.
The Obama administration represents the greatest government-directed assault on religious freedom in American history. It amounts to a dictatorship of secularism, which gets more and more aggressive by the week, as evident in the comment made by Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values.” Translation: Christian values are no longer American values in Obamaland.
Under this secularist mentality, it is open season on blameless groups like the Boy Scouts and upstanding companies like Chick-fil-A in major “progressive” cities. From San Francisco to Chicago to Boston — all under the control of mayors close to Obama’s campaign — Christians are threatened with ideological tests before they are deemed worthy of obtaining even a business permit.
In 2008, candidate Obama promised a “transformative” presidency. As he fines the religious into submission, it becomes clearer what he meant: He is transforming America into a coercive secular state.
George Neumayr is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, “No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.”