The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Health and Human Services Department, No. 13-1144) ruled that a family-owned, profit-making business cannot challenge, on religious grounds, the new federal health care law's mandate of birth control coverage as part of its health insurance coverage for its employees. This decision is in direct conflict with the decision of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and, therefore, paves the way for this issue to reach the United States Supreme Court.
Plaintiff, Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet company that is owned by a Mennonite family, sought an injunction from the enforcement of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which requires that private employers with more than 50 employees provide health insurance that covers birth control. Conestoga Wood Specialties has as its company policy not to support "anything that terminates a fertilized embryo." Conestoga's objection was based upon the fact that two drugs that must be provided under the health insurance coverage for employees under the contraception mandate are the Plan B (the "morning after pill") and the ella (the week after pill").
Rhe Third Circuit ruled that the basis for the objection, i.e.religious freedom, is grounded int he First Amendment right to exercise of religion. That right, the Third Circuit concluded is a "personal right" that exists for the benefit of individuals, not corporations. The Third Circuit agreed with the trial court that "religious belief takes shape within the minds and hearts of individuals, and its protection is one of the more uniquely 'human' rights provided by the Constitution." The Third Circuit further explained "[w]e do not see how a for-profit 'artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law,' that was created to make money could exercise such an inherently 'human' right."
The Supreme Court has held, in other cases, that corporations have certain rights under the First Amendment that also inure to individuals, such as freedom of speech. As such, the Conestoga Wood case is in direct conflict with the decision of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v Sebelious, No. 12-6294, 2013 WL 3216103 (10th Cir. June 27, 2013)
About New York City Attorney Hope Lefeber:
Hope C. Lefeber is a practicing federal criminal defense attorney and a member of Federal Bar Association. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University School of Law, and is a member of the Federal Bar Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and numerous other criminal defense groups. Ms. Lefeber has represented high-profile clients, published numerous articles, lectured on federal criminal law issues, taught Continuing Legal Education classes to other Criminal lawyers and has appeared on TV News as a legal expert.. Ms. Lefeber specializes in white collar crimes, drug crimes and appeals and is the Managing Member of her New York City-based law firm, Hope C. Lefeber, LLC