Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Religious Liberty Case of Lancaster Co. Business
BACKGROUND: The owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, the Hahns, are a practicing and believing Mennonite family. They desire to run the company, a wholesale manufacturer of custom wood kitchen cabinet parts, in a manner that reflects their sincerely held religious beliefs, including their belief that God requires respect for the sanctity of human life. Randy Wenger of the Independence Law Center allied with co-counsel Charles Proctor III of the Pennsylvania firm Proctor, Lindsay & Dixon and Alliance Defending Freedom represent the Hahns in a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration over its abortion pill mandate. The mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services if the mandate’s requirements aren’t met.
LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear the appeal of Conestoga Wood Specialties and its owners, the Hahn family. Conestoga, a wood cabinet business, and the Hahns, a Lancaster County Mennonite family, brought suit seeking an exemption from the federal mandate requiring Conestoga to provide abortion-inducing drugs to its roughly 1,000 employees through its healthcare plan. The Hahns have argued that the mandate violates their religious conscience.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled against the Hahns in January and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit again ruled against the Hahns in July. Both times the courts concluded that the Hahns’ religious liberty was not violated when they were forced, against their conscience, to use their corporation to provide abortifacients and that the corporation itself lacked religious liberties. Now, due to the Supreme Court granting the appeal, the Hahns and Conestoga continue to be able to make their case.
“We are relieved that the Supreme Court is hearing this matter,” said Randall Wenger, Chief Counsel of the Independence Law Center. “The stakes are high because if government can force us to violate our deepest convictions, there is no stopping the liberties that the government can take from any one of us.”
“We’re hopeful that the Supreme Court will now recognize that the Hahns’ religious liberties are at stake and that it will reiterate that corporations themselves possess such rights,” said Charles W. Proctor, III, who argued the case above.
Eighteen states and other parties filed friend-of-the-court briefs last month that also asked the high court to hear the case, Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. The Court also agreed to hear Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Hobby Lobby, founded and owned by the Green family, is one of the largest arts and crafts retailers in America.
“The government shouldn’t be able to punish Americans for exercising their fundamental freedoms,” said Senior Counsel David Cortman. “The administration has no business forcing citizens to choose between making a living and living free. We trust the Supreme Court will agree. A government that forces any citizen to participate in immoral acts–like the use of abortion drugs–under threat of crippling fines is a government everyone should fear.”
The mandate, a component of Obamacare, could cost the family “$95,000 per day” if it doesn’t agree to live contrary to its Christian convictions, according to 3rd Circuit Judge Kent Jordan’s dissent in the case. The mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy financial penalties if the mandate’s requirements aren’t met.
Conestoga Wood Specialties owners Norman Hahn, Elizabeth Hahn, Norman Lemar Hahn, Anthony H. Hahn, and Kevin Hahn desire to run their company, a wholesale manufacturer of custom wood cabinet parts, in a manner that reflects their Christian beliefs, including their belief that God requires respect for the sanctity of human life.
And as Charles Proctor says, “This is not just about serving the Hahn family. This is about serving millions of Americans in the protection of their religious liberty.”
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