Terence P. Jeffrey:
The Justice Department last week presented the Newland family of Colorado–who own Hercules Industries, a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning business–with what amounted to an ultimatum: Give up your religion or your business.
“Hercules Industries has ‘made no showing of a religious belief which requires that [it] engage in the [HVAC] business,” the Justice Department said in a formal filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
In response to the Justice Department’s argument that the Newlands can either give up practicing their religion or give up owning their business, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the family, said in a reply brief: “[T]o the extent the government is arguing that its Mandate does not really burden the Newlands because they are free to abandon their jobs, their livelihoods, and their property so that others can take over Hercules and comply, this expulsion from business would be an extreme form of government burden.”
Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its mandate that individuals must buy health insurance, this suit which seeks to protect a small business from being forced to take actions that violate the moral and religious beliefs of the family that owns it is likely to be the next major court battle over Obamacare.
At stake is whether businesses are protected by the First Amendment—the part of the Bill of Rights that guarantees not only the free exercise of religion but also freedom of speech and of the press.