Today, the ACLJ asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take a case involving a challenge to the ObamaCare HHS Mandate – urging the high court to permit companies and corporations to bring religious liberty claims in challenging the Mandate.
“This is a critical issue that needs to be addressed by the Supreme Court,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. “To protect the rights of individuals, but shut out companies and corporations from religious freedom protections is legally flawed. Businesses must be afforded the same opportunity to exercise a fundamental liberty protected by the First Amendment. Religious liberty must apply to businesses as well as individuals. It’s our hope the high court will take this case and reach that conclusion.”
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of Francis and Philip Gilardi, owners of Freshway Foods of Sidney, Ohio. The court held that the so-called “HHS Mandate” – a regulation requiring businesses to include in their health plans coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs or face massive penalties – places a substantial burden on the religious beliefs of business owners whose religious beliefs forbid them to pay for those services.
The court, however, rejected the Gilardis’ argument that their companies – Freshway Foods and Fresh Unlimited – are entitled to bring religious liberty claims themselves. The court said it had “no basis for concluding a secular corporation can exercise religion.”
In today’s filing, the ACLJ – which has filed 7 cases in federal court including the Gilardi case – noted that there’s a split in the lower courts concerning the issue of protecting the religious freedom rights of companies and corporations and urged the high court to take the case.
“Clearly, the lower courts are at odds with one another as to who has standing to challenge the Mandate, whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by the Mandate, and whether a secular or for-profit corporation has any religious exercise rights at all,” the ACLJ argues. “Given these conflicting decisions, and the fact that the Mandate impacts the exercise of a fundamental liberty protected by the First Amendment, there cannot be a more compelling case or controversy warranting this Court’s intervention.”
The ACLJ represents Francis A. Gilardi, Jr. and Philip M. Gilardi, two brothers who own and control two companies that are involved in the processing, packaging, and transportation of fresh produce. The companies include: Freshway Foods, a nearly 25 year old family-owned fresh produce processor and packer, which serves 23 states and has 340 full-time employees. Also represented: Freshway Logistics - a family-owned for-hire carrier of mainly refrigerated products serving 23 states for the last 10 years with approximately 55 full-time employees. Both companies are located in Sidney, Ohio; a city in west-central Ohio located about 40 miles north of Dayton.
The owners, who are Catholic, contend that the HHS Mandate, requiring coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, violates their religious beliefs.