Business Owners First Amendment Rights Deserve Protection
CHICAGO, March 15, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The CatholicVote.org Legal Fund today filed a first-of-a-kind federal lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on behalf of a Missouri business owner who contends the HHS mandate violates his constitutionally-protected religious beliefs. The lawsuit requests that the court issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the HHS from requiring those who have religious objections to abide by the mandate, which requires employers to purchase health insurance for their employees that includes coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.
The CV Legal Fund is representing Frank R. O'Brien and O'Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC (OIH) – a holding company based in St. Louis, Missouri. O'Brien is chairman of OIH which operates a number of businesses that explore, mine, and process refractory and ceramic raw materials, with its products going to more than 40 countries.
The lawsuit marks the first legal challenge to the HHS mandate from a private business owner and his company. Until now, only religious organizations or institutions have brought lawsuits challenging the mandate.
"The Obama administration is telling Frank O'Brien that he must violate his deeply-held religious beliefs just to do business anywhere in the United States. And for what purpose? Contraception is legal and available everywhere. This mandate is both unnecessary and unconstitutional," said Brian Burch, Director of the CatholicVote.org Legal Fund.
O'Brien, a Catholic, says his religious beliefs provide the framework for the operation of his businesses, which employ 87 people. The company website states the OIH mission "is to make our labor a pleasing offering to the Lord while enriching our families and society." OIH's statement of the company's values begins with the following: "Integrity. Our conduct is guided by the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. We will not discriminate based on anyone's personal belief system."
O'Brien also has implemented a variety of company-participating programs to assist employees in purchasing homes, saving for the college education of their children, and being able to retire.
The lawsuit contends that the HHS mandate "imposes a substantial burden on Plaintiffs' free exercise of religion by coercing Plaintiffs to choose between conducting their business in accordance with their religious beliefs or paying substantial penalties to the government."
The lawsuit asks the court to declare that the HHS mandate violates the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. The suit also requests the court to issue a permanent injunction to halt implementation of the HHS mandate for those who have religious objections.
The lawsuit names as defendants, the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Sebelius; the Department of the Treasury and Secretary Geithner; and the Department of Labor and Secretary Solis. The CV Legal Fund is being assisted in this lawsuit by the American Center for Law and Policy, a Washington-based public interest law firm, and Patrick T. Gillen, Professor of Law at the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, FL.
Background on CatholicVote.org:
CatholicVote.org was launched in September 2008 as a new effort to educate, organize, and mobilize the Catholic vote. The national group was responsible for one of the most watched online commercials during the 2008 presidential campaign, watched by nearly 3 million viewers on YouTube alone. The group also received national attention for a second life-affirming viral ad depicting ultrasound images celebrating the life of President Obama. The popular website hosts the award winning American Papist blog, along with other political commentary relevant to Catholic voters. The organization regularly communicates with nearly 600,000 email subscribers and supporters.