The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has ruled that the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, a Mennonite-owned company, must comply with the Health and Human Services mandate that compels companies to pay for drugs that may cause abortions. The ruling was handed down in a 2-1 decision assertin that the Mennonite faith of the company’s owners may not prohibit the company from complying with the mandate.
“Since Conestoga is distinct from the Hahns [the owners of the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation], the Mandate does not actually require the Hahns to do anything,” wrote Judge Robert Cowen. “All responsibility for complying with the Mandate falls on Conestoga … It is Conestoga that must provide the funds to comply with the Mandate — not the Hahns.”
“Our decision here is in no way intended to marginalize the Hahns’ commitment to the Mennonite faith,” Judge Cowen continued. “We accept that the Hahns sincerely believe that the termination of a fertilized embryo constitutes an intrinsic evil and a sin against God to which they are held accountable, and that it would be a sin to pay for or contribute to the use of contraceptives which may have such a result. We simply conclude that the law has long recognized the distinction between the owners of a corporation and the corporation itself.”
The majority opinion also determined that Conestoga Corporation cannot be protected as a “person” under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “Since Conestoga cannot exercise religion, it cannot assert a RFRA claim,” the court concluded.
But Ed Whelan of the National Review observes several issues with the majority opinion:
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