The Obama administration’s anti-conscience mandate went into effect at the beginning of this month, and private business owners are now required to cover contraceptive care in employee health plans thanks to Obamacare.
Weingartz, a family owned lawn supply store in Michigan, is one of several businesses challenging that mandate in court, saying it requires business owners to violate their religious beliefs.
“As people of faith … we’ve looked at our business as an extension of that faith and we’ve always tried to run it in a way that’s compatible with our faith,” Daniel Weingartz, the company president, said. “We’ve never had to go against something that was against our religious principles in order to run our business. In 67 years, we’ve held true to that.”
Weingartz is not complying with the anti-conscience mandate, but will not face penalties until its health insurance plan renews in January. At that time, the company could be fined up to $100 per employee per day for not including the mandated services in its plan. Ironically, the fine for offering a plan that doesn’t comply with the mandate could exceed the fine for not offering health insurance at all. Under Obamacare, the fine for not offering employees health insurance is $2,000 a year per employee.
“Either we’re going to have to drop health insurance, we’re going to have to violate our religious principles, or we’re going to have to pay the fine associated with having a non compliant plan,” Weingartz said. “I guess ultimately we’re hopeful that our case is settled with a positive disposition for us so that we don’t have to make those decisions, but those are the three options that we have.”
Weingartz is seeking an injunction so that its current plan can stay in place until the court case is decided.
“We don’t want to put our employees’ health at risk,” Weingartz said. “It’s an important part of our business to offer health insurance to our employees so we’re hoping that this doesn’t change that.”
He said the lack of coverage for contraceptives in the company’s health plan had never been an issue.
“We’re not trying to say there’s anything wrong with people using birth control,” he said. “We feel that personally its wrong and its wrong for us to pay for it.”
The administration’s mandate has put many other employers across the country in a similarly tough spot, having to decide between their religious faith and their desire to continue to provide their workers with health insurance. Just last month, Hercules Industries won an injunction in a similar case in Colorado. Other cases have been filed by religious-based non-profits across the country, including several cases from religiously affiliated universities like Notre Dame.
Weingartz said that as a business, his company tries to avoid litigation at all costs, finding it a huge waste of resources and energy.
“As much as we really didn’t like taking the legal route, we just felt like that was the only option we were left with,” he said. He added that he has received support from people across the political spectrum.
“We’re getting support from all kinds of different people,” he said. “It just resonates with people, something doesn’t feel right about this. There is just something that … seems kind of un-American about making somebody buy something that’s against their religious principles.”