By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A federal court ruled against a Lancaster County cabinet maker that sued, hoping to get out of paying huge fines under the new Healthcare Reform Act.
The company’s owners argued that paying for contraceptive services for female employees would violate their religious beliefs.
Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation is owned by the Hahn family, which claims they are practicing Mennonite Christianity. They claim they should not have to pay the $95,000 a day fines for refusing to pay for certain contraceptive services, but the judge disagreed.
“Religion is something that individual human beings engage in, it’s not something that corporations engage in,” says Robert Field, who is a professor at Drexel Law School.
He says the Hahns used the controversial Citizens United decision to support their argument. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that corporations have a right to free speech. He says he’s not surprised the Eastern District of Pennsylvania court refused to extend that ruling to religion.
“Are we going to let people get out of adhering to any law because they claim it offends their religion? People would do anything they wanted,” says Field. “We have a long history in this country that says the common good trumps religious beliefs.”
The court therefore refused to grant the Hahn’s motion for preliminary injunction, ruling that they are unlikely to win on the merits of their case.
“They chose to engage in the stream of commerce, they chose to do it as a corporate entity, which means it is separate from them as individual human beings and that means they have to put up with a whole set of rules,” says Field. “They have to pay certain taxes, they have to file certain reports and they, as an extension of that, they’ll have to pay for contraceptive services under the healthcare act.”
Field says companies all over the country are challenging the contraceptive rule under the healthcare law, so ultimately the US Supreme Court may need to decide this issue.