Wood You Stand for Religious Freedom?

by NR Interview
Congestoga Wood’s CEO talks about his family’s court battle.

Anthony Hahn is president and CEO of Conestoga Wood, the Pennsylvania cabinetry company that joins Hobby Lobby on Tuesday in challenging the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services abortion-drug, contraception, sterilization Obamacare mandate before the Supreme Court. Hahn and his family are Mennonites, while Hobby Lobby’s David and Barbara Green are evangelicals. Hahn talks to National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the case. (See here for a previous interview.)


KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Did you ever think — before the last year or so — that your family business would ever have a hearing at the Supreme Court?

ANTHONY HAHN: No, my family never, ever thought that we would have to appear in front of the Supreme Court to protect the faith that Conestoga was founded on. We never thought that we would have to be in any court.


LOPEZ: What are you most looking forward to at the Court?

HAHN: My family values the freedom that the United States of America has always afforded, so it is momentous for us to be in attendance at the Supreme Court to observe a hearing.


LOPEZ: Have you heard a preview of the arguments? What do you find most compelling?

HAHN: I have read the arguments thoroughly. I think there is a very strong case to be made that a family business can exercise religion, and religion can be exercised while pursuing a profit. Freedom of religion is a First Amendment right, and the courts have never said families abandon their freedoms by trying to earn a living in business.


LOPEZ: Have you read what the Department of Justice has to say about you? What was your reaction? What might you say to the attorney general or secretary of Health and Human Services if you had the chance?

HAHN: Yes, I have read the briefs. The basic fact that the government’s arguments distract from is that for the first time the federal government is asking us to facilitate the taking of an innocent human life by providing coverage for IUDs, the morning-after pill, and other abortifacient drugs. What has changed is that we as a family are having our rights taken away by our own government, simply because we desire to operate our business in a way that honors God and that is in line with our beliefs.


LOPEZ: Do people ask you about the case? Do you find they understand why you’re doing what you’re doing?

HAHN: Generally, our family and neighbors understand why we are taking this stand for religious liberty, and many people have expressed their support and have indicated they will be praying for us.


LOPEZ: Is there something about the Mennonite life you wish others would understand? Can it help the rest of us take our own faith traditions more seriously?

HAHN: I am not in a position to say how seriously others take their faith. That said, one thing that others should understand about Mennonites is that we typically do not pursue taking legal action in the courts, but when we were being forced to facilitate the destruction of human life and be deprived of religious freedom, we felt it was too important not to take a stand and pursue legal action.


LOPEZ: What have you made of the ecumenical aspect to the opposition to this particular regulation you’re fighting?

HAHN: Going through this process I have met many strong, committed Christians who take their faith seriously. My family and I are simply Christians who have chosen to live our Christian faith and beliefs as Mennonites.


LOPEZ: What do you make of the fact that it is so often referred to as merely a “contraception mandate”?

HAHN: I think that characterization is misleading. This is an issue about the government overstepping its bounds and taking away freedoms that we as Americans have enjoyed for many years, even to the point of being forced to participate in the destruction of life.


LOPEZ: Have you met other families who find themselves in court over the mandate? Do you observe similarities and differences?

HAHN: Yes, we have met the Greens, the owners of Hobby Lobby. It was a pleasant experience to meet another Christian family that owns a business and believes in honoring God and living their beliefs in their family business.


LOPEZ: Has the legal battle had any impact on your business?

HAHN: Our business continues to grow, and we had an extraordinarily strong 2013. I have heard some people mention that the reason for this might be that God is blessing us for taking a stand. I am not sure this is the case, but we do know that God blessed us in 2013 for whatever reason He saw fit to bless us. This legal battle has, however, given us more visibility and put us in the news, and my family has never been trying to draw attention to ourselves.


LOPEZ: Do you worry that people will see Mennonites or your company as “anti-women” because of this legal fight?

HAHN: That is the furthest from the truth. Women are an important part of our business, we have women in various management positions, and our health plan has always been generous, including providing preventive services for women. This case is simply about whether the federal government can force us to provide life-destroying products or else face massive fines on our family business.


LOPEZ: What will happen to you and your company if the Supreme Court does not rule in your favor? ​

HAHN: I can only say I hope and pray that the Court upholds America’s long tradition of freedom and does not allow this unprecedented mandate to punish families or force them to help destroy human life.

– Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA.

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