Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Federal Court Ruling on HHS Mandate Could Endanger Religious Nonprofits

A federal court ruling against a Pennsylvania company’s objections to the federal “HHS mandate” on religious grounds could endanger all religious nonprofits, according to one legal expert.

Marc DeGirolami, a law professor at Saint John’s University in New York, wrote at The Mirror of Justice that the court’s logic in denying religious freedom to the owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties could be implemented on a widespread basis.

“All of the arguments it makes against the free exercise rights of corporations would apply equally to non-profit corporations like churches,” he wrote. “Though the majority recognizes this problem, it does not discuss sufficiently (or really, at all) what for it are the key distinctions--the distinction between ‘for profit’ and ‘nonprofit,’ and the distinction between ‘religious’ and ‘secular.’”

“Even if we were to disregard the lack of historical recognition of the right, we simply cannot understand how a for-profit, secular corporation—apart from its owners—can exercise religion,” the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals said in its 2-1 decision, according to Lancaster Online. The Pennsylvania company is owned by a Mennonite family which objects to providing health insurance coverage to its 950 employees for abortifacients such as Plan B.

The attorney representing Conestoga told reporters that it would appeal the case. "Religious freedom is not just confined to Sunday mornings,” said Charles Proctor. “You can take your religion with you to the workplace.”

This decision seemingly runs counter to the recent decision delivered by the 10th Circuit, which granted the craft store chain Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction from the mandate.

With dozens of other lawsuits still working their way through the system, the conflicting decisions seem to make a Supreme Court hearing likely.

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