Now that the Supreme Court has allowed Obamacare to proceed, the weight of the massive law’s implementation will begin to close in on Americans’ freedoms.
One of the first places that will be felt is in religious liberty, when an especially controversial provision of the HHS preventive services mandate takes effect in a few short weeks on August 1. After that, as employers renew their health plans in the coming year, they will have to comply with the HHS mandate’s coercive requirement to cover abortion drugs, contraception and sterilization — regardless of religious or moral objections. The religious exemption to the mandate effectively applies only to houses of worship. Other employers with religious objections may be able to get a one-year delay of enforcement if they meet certain conditions. But this so-called “safe harbor” applies only to certain non-profit organizations, meaning that it doesn’t help the family business owners who want to run their enterprises without having to check their faith and morals at the door.
That’s why the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has filed suit on behalf of members of the Newland family who own and operate a Denver HVAC company called Hercules Industries and who also happen to be practicing Catholics. ADF has requested a preliminary injunction on or by August 1 so that the family does not have to violate their sincerely held beliefs as they plan for a new year of health coverage.
The Newland family’s case is just one of 23 religious liberty lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate under Obamacare. Since Obamacare remains in place and these religious liberty claims were not at issue in the cases decided by the Court yesterday, these HHS mandate lawsuits will go forward and now become the center of legal attention on Obamacare. More than 50 plaintiffs are involved in the cases. They include Catholic and Protestant colleges, religious schools serving inner-city children, and charities providing care for the abused and neglected.
The HHS mandate forces these ministries to violate conscience by providing coverage for services –like abortion drugs, deemed essential by the Obama administration but controversial among Americans generally — or face steep fines. This is among the first of the many rules and regulations expected as the behemoth, 2,700-page Obamacare law presses its full weight onto our constitutional order.
Americans who don’t yet feel the pressure religious institutions and individuals are experiencing under the HHS mandate would do well to heed the old admonition to bear our neighbors’ burden, by uniting in support of religious freedom. Soon enough, the full weight of Obamacare will be on us all.
— Jennifer Marshall is director of domestic-policy studies at the Heritage Foundation and author of Now and Not Yet: Making Sense of Single Life in the 21st Century.