Tyndale House Foundation is a religious non-profit organization that sued the Obama administration last year over the Obamacare mandate forcing businesses to cover “sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.”
CNS News reported Monday that Tyndale self insures its employees, “but, in keeping with its religious faith, it does not in any way provide abortions.” Tyndale’s lawsuit claims the Obamacare regulation “violated its right to the free-exercise of religion.”
The argument of the Obama administration has repeatedly been “that once people form a corporation to conduct business they lose their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion insofar as their business is concerned,” the article said.
In an interesting twist in the case, the article said the federal prosecutor Benjamin Berwick told U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton “that the Obama administration believed it could force the judge’s own wife—a physician—to act against her religious faith in the conduct of her medical practice.”
Walton ultimately granted Tyndale a preliminary injunction from having to provide birth-control or abortion drugs to its employees, but the exchange between Berwick and Walton is worth reading:
Benjamin Berwick: “Well, your honor, I think, I think there are two distinct ideas here: One is: Is the corporation itself religious such that it can exercise religion? And my, our argument is that it is not. Although again, we admit that it is a closer case than for a lot of other companies. And then the second question is, can the owners–is it a substantial burden on the owners when the requirement falls on the company that is a separate legal entity? I think for that question precisely what their beliefs are doesn’t really matter. I mean, they allege that they’re religious beliefs are being violated. We don’t question that. And we don’t question that that is the belief.
Judge Reggie Walton: But considering the closeness of the relationship that the individual owners have to the corporation to require them to fund what they believe amounts to the taking of a life, I don’t know what could be more contrary to one’s religious belief than that.
Berwick: Well, I don’t think the fact this is a closely-held corporation is particularly relevant, your honor. I mean, Mars, for example-
Judge Walton: Well, I mean, my wife has a medical practice. She has a corporation, but she’s the sole owner and sole stock owner. If she had strongly-held religious belief and she made that known that she operated her medical practice from that perspective, could she be required to pay for these types of items if she felt that that was causing her to violate her religious beliefs?
Berwick: Well, Your Honor, I think what it comes down to is whether there is a legal separation between the company and—
Judge Walton: It’s a legal separation. I mean, she obviously has created the corporation to limit her potential individual liability, but she’s the sole owner and everybody associates that medical practice with her as an individual. And if, you know, she was very active in her church and her church had these same type of strong religious-held beliefs, and members of the church and the community became aware of the fact that she is funding something that is totally contrary to what she professes as her belief, why should she have to do that?
Berwick: Well, your honor, again, I think it comes down to the fact that the corporation and the owner truly are separate. They are separate legal entities.
Judge Walton: So, she’d have to give up the limitation that conceivably would befall on her regarding liability in order to exercise her religion? So, she’d have to go as an individual proprietor with no corporation protection in order to assert her religious right? Isn’t that as significant burden?