By Groff Schroeder
On July 27, 2012, United States District Court for the District of Colorado Judge John Kane granted an injunction to prevent the implementation of new provisions of the Affordable Care Act eliminating co-pays for eight types of preventative care including contraception, sterilization, and sexually transmitted disease testing. The issues in dispute included the Act's attempt to ensure that all non-church employers in the United States provide employees access to preventative and reproductive health care without a co-pay, and a Denver company's claim that failing to charge a co-pay to employees for such services - would cause “imminent, irreparable harm” to the company's “freedom of religion.” The judge only considered the case with respect to the defendants (the United States Government) and the Plaintiffs (the Newland Family, owners of Hercules Industries, a heating and air conditioning manufacturer).
The Background section of Judge Kane's ruling states that “for the past year and a half the Newlands have implemented within Hercules a program designed to build their corporate culture based on Catholic principles.” The Newlands altered the articles of incorporation of Hercules Industries to add a provision specifying that the company's “primary purposes” are to be achieved by “following appropriate religious, ethical or moral standards,” and “a provision allowing members of its board of directors to prioritize those 'religious, ethical or moral standards' at the expense of profitability.” Hercules' new articles also state that “Hercules maintains a self-insured group plan for its employees “[as] part of fulfilling their organizational mission and Catholic beliefs and commitments.”
The employees of Hercules Industries were not a party to the case, so the consequences experienced by the human beings most directly effected by its outcome were not considered by Judge Kane. Neither did the case consider the merit of corporations altering their articles of incorporation to establish (retroactively or otherwise) a corporate culture based upon the “religious, ethical or moral standards” of the corporation's owners or operators. Similarly, the effect upon actual human beings of operating corporate “self-insured group [employee health care] plan” to fulfill corporate family “Catholic beliefs and commitments” - rather than to meet the health care needs of the corporation's employees - was apparently also not considered by Judge Kane.
Although Hercules made national headlines when it won an injunction against the elimination of co-pays for preventative and reproductive care for its employees, it lost an award it was to receive from the Denver City Council on August 13 for, among other things, the company's “generous health care coverage.”
Why are corporations like Hercules Industries granted “religious freedom” when they are incapable of participating in religious services or rituals, and are denied the right to vote, the right to join the military, and numerous other rights and responsibilities of citizenship? How can the religious freedom of a corporation, its owners, or operators extend to denying religious freedom to other human beings by forcing them to comply with “Catholic” - or any other – religious 'beliefs and commitments?”
As long as churches, corporations, employers, families, individuals, organizations, and religious groups control the medical, religious, and or reproductive behavior of human beings, personal and religious freedom will remain little more than elusive ideals.
Published September 19-25, 2012 in the Colorado Springs Independent, with the following quotation.
"The United States should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.” George Washington