John Kennedy vs. Obama
A Grand Rapids small-business owner sues for his religious liberty.

John Kennedy, CEO of Autocam and Autocam Medical


LOPEZ: Why sue now? Is it an election stunt?

KENNEDY: It’s anything but an election stunt. We’re suing now because, if we don’t obtain relief from the court, we will be forced to choose between the three unsustainable options that I outlined above by January 1, 2013. In fact, we need to make a decision by November 1, 2012, in order to continue to offer health care next year. The mandate does take effect in the midst of the election season, and we hope that that fact will help us raise awareness and influence health-care policy in a way that prevents the violation of our first freedoms and makes it possible for employers like Autocam to offer high-quality insurance.

: What do you make of the widespread silence about the situation you are in?

KENNEDY: Most media coverage describes any objection to the mandate as motivated by a desire to deny women access to contraception. I don’t seek to deny women access to contraception, and neither does anyone else protesting the mandate. Almost every business owner I’ve talked to is unaware of the mandate, and many are in disbelief when I tell them about it. I hope that my lawsuit and commercial will inform others about this critical issue.

LOPEZ: Do you want an exemption or something else?

KENNEDY: Yes, we would like an exemption so that we can continue to offer our health-care plan for as long as possible. I don’t want to drop coverage, because the only options currently available to our employees are very expensive. And when the exchanges are put in place (they’re planned for 2014), they will still be more expensive for our employees than Autocam’s plan. The Kaiser Institute has a calculator, for example, that shows that our employees will pay thousands of dollars each year for their health care. One reason for this is that the government subsidy does not extend to families with a total income of $100,000. Since many of our employees are two-income families, we estimate that most are close to or exceed the family income of $100,000. Ultimately, we believe that the mandate should be struck down as unconstitutional.

: What would you hope voters would consider as a result of your commercial?

KENNEDY: I hope that the commercial can educate voters about this egregious violation of religious freedom and freedom of speech. I believe that anyone who voted for this law is no longer qualified to represent the American people. But whomever you support and whoever is elected, one thing is clear to me: We need to repeal or dramatically change the Affordable Care Act, because it gives the federal government the ability to violate the freedom on which our nation was founded.

: Since the HHS mandate has been cast as a Catholic issue, do you think Catholics have a heightened responsibility?

KENNEDY: I do believe Catholics have a heightened responsibility to respond, for that very reason. But it’s also important to note that this is not just a Catholic issue. Many Protestant-run institutions — from Hobby Lobby to Wheaton College — are fighting the mandate as well. The mandate is an unprecedented expansion of federal power. If President Obama’s administration can mandate that morally opposed institutions write checks for abortion pills, could an Evangelical president mandate that atheists write checks for Bibles? The mandate affects all Americans and their right to practice their religion — or no religion at all.

 Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.