By Jan Carabeo
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that some companies can opt out of the new health care law that requires employers to pay for insurance coverage of contraceptives by citing religious objections.
The court’s 5 to 4 decision ruled that the mandate was a violation of federal law protecting religious freedom. The justices made note, however, that the ruling only applies to closely-held corporations.
One company at the center of the lawsuit is Conestoga Wood Specialties, located in East Earl, Pa.
The Hahn family, which owns Lancaster County-based Conestoga Wood Specialties, came together at the company’s headquarters Monday morning to hear the court’s decision.
Their attorney said the high court’s ruling brought relief.
“The group broke out in prayer,” Randall Wenger, chief counsel for Independence Law Center, said.
Conestoga, which employs about 1,000 people, was founded a half century ago by Mennonites. Its mission is to run the family-owned kitchen cabinetry business by following religious principles.
The family’s attorney said the company objects to providing employees with certain contraceptives that it equates with abortion.
“They weren’t objecting to everything, they were objecting to facilitating drugs that they felt like could result in the death of a new human life,” Wenger said.
When Wenger took the case two years ago, he thought it would be an easy victory.
“If the government can tell us that we need to violate our most deeply held convictions in order to run a business, there’s something wrong with our system,” he said.
Conestoga’s attorneys argued that the Affordable Care Act’s requirement not only violates federal law protecting religious freedom, but would also cost the company $36 million in fines a year.
“They wouldn’t be able to stay in business and abide by their conscience,” Wenger said.
Conestoga Wood Specialties was founded in 1964, and the family’s attorney said the Hahns could not have received a more fitting 50th anniversary present than a ruling upholding their religious freedom.
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