During oral arguments in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last fall, an attorney representing the Obama administration told Federal Judge Reggie Walton that he believed the administration could force his wife, who is a practicing physician, to act against her conscience with regards to what she believed in the conduct of her practice.
The affirmation of such a claim took place during the Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius, which was a challenge of the Obama administration’s regulation of the health care plans of employers, which demands that they provide sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.
Tyndale’s legal complaint stated, “Consistent with the religious beliefs of Tyndale and its owners, Tyndale’s self-insured plan does not and has never covered abortions or abortifacient drugs or devices such as emergency contraception and intrauterine devices.”
Tyndale was seeking an preliminary injunction to prevent the enforcement of the new unlawful law. In doing so, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom faced off with Benjamin Berwick, a lawyer for the Civil Division of the Justice Department. The oral arguments took place back on November 9, 2012, just days after the 2012 election in Judge Walton’s court.
As Berwick attempted to make the argument that when people form a corporation they lose their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion as far as business is concerned, Judge Walton decided to ask him about his own wife, who is a graduate of Georgetown medical School and is a physician. “Does that mean, according to the Obama administration’s argument, that the federal government can force her to act against her religious faith in the conduct of her medical practice?” the judge asked.
The answer is astounding! From the official court transcript:
Benjamin Berwick: “Well, your honor, I think, I think there are two distinct ideas here: One is: Is the corporation itself religious such that it can exercise religion? And my, our argument is that it is not. Although again, we admit that it is a closer case than for a lot of other companies. And then the second question is, can the owners–is it a substantial burden on the owners when the requirement falls on the company that is a separate legal entity? I think for that question precisely what their beliefs are doesn’t really matter. I mean, they allege that they’re religious beliefs are being violated. We don’t question that. And we don’t question that that is the belief.
Judge Reggie Walton: But considering the closeness of the relationship that the individual owners have to the corporation to require them to fund what they believe amounts to the taking of a life, I don’t know what could be more contrary to one’s religious belief than that.
Berwick: Well, I don’t think the fact this is a closely-held corporation is particularly relevant, your honor. I mean, Mars, for example–
Judge Walton: Well, I mean, my wife has a medical practice. She has a corporation, but she’s the sole owner and sole stock owner. If she had strongly-held religious belief and she made that known that she operated her medical practice from that perspective, could she be required to pay for these types of items if she felt that that was causing her to violate her religious beliefs?
Berwick: Well, Your Honor, I think what it comes down to is whether there is a legal separation between the company and—
Judge Walton: It’s a legal separation. I mean, she obviously has created the corporation to limit her potential individual liability, but she’s the sole owner and everybody associates that medical practice with her as an individual. And if, you know, she was very active in her church and her church had these same type of strong religious-held beliefs, and members of the church and the community became aware of the fact that she is funding something that is totally contrary to what she professes as her belief, why should she have to do that?
Berwick: Well, your honor, again, I think it comes down to the fact that the corporation and the owner truly are separate. They are separate legal entities.
Judge Walton: So, she’d have to give up the limitation that conceivably would befall on her regarding liability in order to exercise her religion? So, she’d have to go as an individual proprietor with no corporation protection in order to assert her religious right? Isn’t that as significant burden?
Ultimately, Judge Walton issued the preliminary injunction.
I confess there is a great danger in incorporation. This is something I have warned many churches about. In fact, a good friend of mine and President of NiceneCouncil.com, who also produces weekly videos at AgainstTheWorld.tv, Jerry Johnson, took on the issue of incorporation in the Presbyterian Church. You can read his arguments here. While the arguments he provides are specific to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are very applicable to corporation in general, as far as what they do.
Incorporation, whether one understands it or not, does imply that the corporation is a creature of the State. However, to state that those who control the corporation effectively “leave their First Amendment rights at the door” is ridiculous. After all, the corporation is made up of those same people. Those people would be fined and even jailed under the Obamacare law, not a corporation. While it masquerades as a great protection, I should have to mention only one word to prove that though erroneous, Enron. I am glad to see Judge Walton stand up to the bullies of the Obama administration, but I do wonder when this might get escalated, at the tax payer’s expense, and we will see statists lift the injunction based on incorporation. In either case, I believe the Judge made the right call. The Federal government has no business mandating people’s conscience and furthermore they have no business forcing people to purchase a product like health insurance.
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