Judge rejects Pa. firm's health care law challenge
PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge has rejected the argument of the Mennonite owners of a central Pennsylvania furniture manufacturing company that new health care requirements that they pay for employees' contraceptive services violate their free speech and religion rights.
U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg on Friday rejected a preliminary injunction sought by the owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., saying Norman Hahn and his family were unlikely to prevail in their case. He said they had not proven that complying with the new health care law amounted to a “substantial burden” on their religious rights.
Attorney Charles W. Proctor III told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the Hahns plan to appeal.
“We think it's well thought out,” attorney Charles W. Proctor III said of the decision. “We just don't agree with it.”
Conestoga's health plan excludes coverage for contraceptives and drugs used to abort a pregnancy, citing Mennonite Church teaching that terminating a fertilized embryo “is an intrinsic evil and a sin against God.” They said complying with the health care law's requirement to pay for contraceptive services and especially abortifacients would violate their religion, and disobeying it would subject them to crippling fines.
The judge ruled the company did not qualify for an exception as a religious employer, since it is a for-profit company with no formal ties to a church or other religious group. He said he found no “historical support for the proposition that a secular, for-profit corporation possesses the right to free exercise of religion,” and declined to make what he called “the significant leap” that the plaintiffs were seeking “without clear guidance from Congress or the Supreme Court.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.