The owners of several scrap metal recycling companies in Missouri have joined scores of other employers in filing a legal challenge against the federal mandate that forces them to pay for abortion-inducing drugs against their religious convictions.
“Our clients simply want to run their business in a way that doesn't force them to violate their religious beliefs,” said Francis Manion, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Oct. 19.
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Manion argued that the mandate is “an unprecedented violation of religious liberty.”
“Coercing Americans into paying for services that violate their religious beliefs goes against our nation’s best traditions of respect for the religious diversity of our people,” he said. “It’s also against the law.”
The lawsuit argues that a federal mandate issued under the Affordable Care Act violates both federal law and the U.S. Constitution. The mandate requires employers to offer health care plans covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs, even if doing so violates their religious and moral beliefs.
The mandate is now facing nearly 40 lawsuits from more than 110 plaintiffs across the country. Nearly half of these lawsuits have been filed by non-Catholic institutions or for-profit businesses.
The Oct. 19 suit was filed on behalf of Paul and Henry Griesedieck, Evangelical Christians who own and control four Missouri companies involved in wholesale scrap metal recycling and the manufacturing of recycling machines.
The Griesediecks “are responsible for setting all policies” governing the business conduct of Springfield Iron and Metal, American Pulverizer, City Welding and Hustler Conveyor.
In doing so, the lawsuit explained, “the Griesediecks seek to conduct their business in a manner that does not violate their religious principles.” They therefore object to funding or facilitating drugs that cause early abortions, such as “Plan B” and “Ella,” both of which are required coverage under the mandate.
The companies employ a total of about 175 individuals, who are covered under three separate health insurance policies, which renew in December and January. Upon renewal, each policy will be required to include the mandated coverage.
Although the contraception mandate includes a religious exemption, it applies only to non-profit groups that exist primarily to instill religious values and that employ and serve primarily members of the same religion.
For-profit companies such as those owned by the Griesediecks do not qualify for the exemption. Nor are they eligible for the one-year “safe harbor” that has been granted to some non-exempt religious employers to delay the mandate’s implementation until August 2013.
Therefore, the mandate puts the Griesediecks in the untenable position of “complying with its requirements in violation of their religious beliefs, or paying ruinous fines that would have a crippling impact on their ability to survive economically,” the lawsuit said.
The federal government should not force private employers to “provide their employees with coverage of those services that Plaintiffs consider immoral on religious grounds,” the suit argued.
The legal challenge also noted that in issuing the final mandate, the government “disregarded the large body of medical evidence indicating that hormonal contraceptives can significantly increase women’s risks of cancer, stroke, and other diseases.”
The Griesediecks are asking the court to block the mandate from being enforced against them and all other employers who hold religious objections to offering the mandated coverage.
“For the government to require them to choose between abandoning their beliefs or abandoning their business is both unfair and unconstitutional,” said Manion. “We will ask the court in this case to uphold our clients' right of religious liberty in the face of this unwarranted abuse of governmental power.”