Lancaster firm sues over contraception mandate

    A Lancaster, Pennsylvania, company says the mandate that health insurance plans provide contraception coverage without a co-pay violates the Mennonite owners’ right to religious freedom.

    On Jan. 1, Conestoga Wood Companies will be locked into an insurance plan that would cover the “morning after pill” for its employees unless the company’s lawyer can convince a federal court to issue an injunction in favor of the cabinet-making company.

    Attorney Chuck Proctor says his clients, who own Conestoga, should not be required to cover the medication.

    My clients “believe that life begins at the instant of conception,” says Proctor. “Because they have this strongly held belief, they believe that that constitutes a killing and they are opposed to it.”

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    Places of worship are exempt from the new rule. Hospitals and universities with religious affiliations have been challenging the law as well and that’s gotten most of the attention. However, companies also face fines of $100 a day per employee if they don’t comply; dozens have filed similar suits across the country that are at various points in the legal system.

    Stanford University law professor Jesse Choper says he believes the challenges will not succeed, in his words, “simply because a law happens to pinch, if you will, a particular religion does not present a free exercise clause issue.”

    The Department of Health and Human Services would not comment on an open legal case.

    The Obama administration has stated its commitment to “conscience protections” in the application of the law but the concerns of companies have not yet risen to the national stage.

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