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Defending Business Owners From the Mandate

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama greets employees at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington

Americans don’t shed their constitutional rights when they open a for-profit business. While much of the attention surrounding the HHS mandates has focused on religious institutions, the Obama mandates also improperly restrict the liberties of private businesses. Today my colleagues at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed the first lawsuit by a private business owner challenging Obama’s mandate. The suit, brought by Frank R. O’Brien and O’Brien Industrial Holdings, centers around a fundamental claim: Mr. O’Brien — a Catholic — “wishes to conduct his business in a manner that does not violate the principles of his religious faith.”

One of the great virtues of American capitalism is the ability of citizens to open and run businesses that not only sell products but also reflect the values and world view of the owner or shareholders (O’Brien’s values and goals include employees purchasing their own home, paying for college, and preparing for retirement). With the explosive growth of the regulatory state, business owners can often feel as if they’re working for the government from the moment they open their doors, and now the government is coercing employers to pay even for contraceptives and abortifacients. That’s a bridge too far.

The multiplicity of business regulations has misled the government into thinking its power to regulate is unlimited and that the act of operating a for-profit business somehow delegitimizes the values and viewpoint of the owner. Mr. O’Brien believes the First Amendment still applies to entrepreneurs, and now the dispute moves to federal court in the Eastern District of Missouri.

This article is crossposted at National Review Online.

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