Human Events Blog

Denver business stripped of “good citizenship” award for opposing ObamaCare

Hercules Industries of Denver, Colorado is a successful 50-year-old heating and air-conditioning company, which was due to receive a Good Citizenship Award from the city for their many contributions to the community.  The generous health care plan offered to their 265 employees, which a Denver Post editorial noted includes “premium benefits for pregnancy, women’s wellness and risk reduction,” was also cited in the proposed award.

But Hercules Industries is owned by a Catholic family, the Newlands.  They objected to ObamaCare’s outrageous imposition on their religious liberty.  The President’s disastrous health-care plan would have forced the self-insured company to cover contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, beginning November 1.

The Newlands sued the government, and on July 29 they won a preliminary injunction from U.S. District Court Judge John Kane (who, the Heritage Foundation notes, is a Carter appointee.)  Kane said in his ruling that the potential harm to the government’s agenda from halting the implementation of ObamaCare “pales in comparison to the possible infringement upon [the Newlands’] constitutional and statutory rights.”  Interestingly, the judge took note of all those special exemptions the Obama Administration has been granting to its very special friends as one of the reasons Hercules Industries deserved a waiver to protect its owners’ religious conscience.

The Obama Administration argued that because they are a “for-profit, secular employer,” Hercules could not “engage in an exercise of religion.”  The Heritage Foundation elaborates: “In other words, the company owners forfeited their right to religious liberty as soon as they sought to earn a living by running a corporation.  Under that logic, if the government decided to require any business that served or prepared food to offer pork, kosher or halal butchers would be forced to forgo their most deeply held religious convictions in order to stay in business.  Accepting the government’s position would effectively push religion out of every sphere of public life and restrict the free exercise rights of adherents to live out their faiths in their day-to-day lives.”

Judge Kane pointed out in his ruling that instead of forcing the Newland family to pay for contraceptives and abortion drugs in violation of their religious conscience, the government could promote its agenda by providing “free” contraception directly, as a welfare benefit.  That, of course, would thwart both the Obama Administration’s boundless appetite for power, and its compelling need to hide the true cost of nightmares like ObamaCare by forcing business owners to implement them with unfunded mandates.

According to Fox News, the same city councilwoman-at-large who originally motioned for the proclamation, Robin Kniech, took it away after learning of Hercules Industries’ lawsuit against ObamaCare.  She said she wanted to avoid “a partisan food fight in a rancorous election year,” because “the hunger for red meat is just too great.”

Got that, citizens?  Standing up for your basic religious liberties is now a “partisan food fight,” and even though what the Newlands did is the very height of good citizenship, their defiance will cost them a well-deserved award.  The Newland family, and countless others like them across America, are not the ones who decided religious conscience should be politicized.  Barack Obama is the one who declared that ancient, heartfelt convictions would become “red meat” for partisan struggles.  His Administration explicitly argues that if you want to run a secular business in the new “transformed” America, the cost of a permit now includes your conscience.

Ironically, Kniech’s official web page claims her “background and experience” provides her with “a strong foundation to balance” the competing interests of expanding Denver’s economy to “create the middle-income jobs that are needed during these challenging times” with the city’s diversity.  Evidently that sacred “diversity” has limits.

Would it be unfair to note that Kniech’s bio says she is “the first out member of the LGBT community to serve on the Denver City Council?”  Kniech attended a June 23 dinner at which ethics-challenged congresswoman Maxine Waters of California pushed the Democrats’ idiotic “War on Women” line and shouted, “After a good night’s sleep, I wake up the next day, and I say, ‘Come on, Tea Party, let’s get it on!’”

At the same dinner, Waters sneered, “Where this ‘ObamaCare’ came from and this constitutional argument came from, I think was not born out of a concern about whether or not people had health care, but because a decision was made to attack whatever this President does.”  Apparently that wasn’t too much red meat for Councilwoman Kniech.

Hercules Industries owner Bill Newland knows perfectly well he’s being targeted for his resistance to ObamaCare.  He told Fox News, “The power of politicians should not be used for partisan retribution.  The merits of Hercules should stand on their own.  This proclamation acknowledges our success and should have gone forward, but it didn’t for their personal reasons and their own beliefs.”

The Archbishop of Denver, Samuel J. Aquila, strongly criticized the decision to withdraw Hercules Industries’ award, calling it “unsurprising but disappointing” in a guest editorial for the Denver Post: “When religious people are marginalized from the public square, all of us lose. Religious values (like those of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., for example) have served as forces for great public good in America. Public shame of the religiously convicted undermines the American ideal.”  He concluded that “Choosing to marginalize the owners of Hercules for their religiosity is an insult to the founding values of our nation.”

The Denver Post reports that Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty, a Republican, stepped forward to issue a “a formal tribute for Hercules Industries that matches almost word-for-word Denver’s scuttled proclamation.”

There could be many areas of community improvement where Bill Newland and Robin Kniech would find themselves in enthusiastic agreement.  But as the power and reach of centralized government expands, everything becomes a matter of partisan action and retribution.  Every difference of opinion, and conflict of conscience, becomes a bitter partisan struggle.  Hercules Industries stands accused of unacceptable partisan insurgency by winning a legal fight it didn’t start.  This is not the least sin of ObamaCare.

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