Pa. family business asks full Third Circuit to protect religious freedom
Court of Appeals declined to halt enforcement of abortion pill mandate
LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — The Independence Law Center representing the Mennonite-owned company, Conestoga Wood Specialties, Inc. has asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to rehear its case after a three judge panel of that court declined to halt enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate.
The case, Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, involves a mandate by the federal government that all employee health insurance plans include coverage for FDA approved contraception. Consistent with the FDA labeling, however, many of these forms of contraception work to change the lining of the uterus so that an embryo could be destroyed after conception. For the Hahn family, Mennonites from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the government mandate confronts a matter of religious faith since it would be contrary to their faith to in any way facilitate the taking of human life.
Charles W. Proctor, III is lead counsel in the case, together with Randall Wenger, chief counsel of the Independence Law Center, and attorney Matt Bowman of Alliance Defending Freedom.
“Americans should be free to live out their faith in all areas of life—including the way they run their business,” said Wenger. “We are hopeful that the Court of Appeals or eventually the Supreme Court will understand the critical importance of our right to live out our religious faith—and the heart-wrenching violation of conscience that it would be to the Hahns to deny them that right.”
“The religious liberty of Americans is not something that should be withheld or dispensed by the government as it arbitrarily sees fit,” added Proctor. “Instead, our Declaration of Independence makes it clear that the Hahn family and all Americans are ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights’ and the free exercise of religion is the very first right enumerated in our Bill of Rights.”
This has been a hard fought journey for Conestoga Wood and the Hahns. They filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Dec. 4 of last year asserting that being forced to provide and pay for insurance that covers drugs and devices that could result in the death of an embryo is contrary to their religious convictions. The District Court denied a request for a Preliminary Injunction on January 11, so Conestoga Wood and the Hahns appealed on January 14 and moved for an injunction pending appeal on January 22, which was denied on February 7. A three judge panel of the Court Appeals ruled against them on July 26, and they filed a petition this week seeking reargument before the full Court.
Conestoga Wood and the Hahns join many other family run businesses around the country seeking injunctions to protect them from the abortion pill mandate.
The Independence Law Center is a pro-bono, non-profit law center in Pennsylvania focused on protecting religious liberty.