Mennonite Corp. Loses Birth Control Mandate Appeal

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Another company has lost its battle to opt out of Obamacare's requirement that employers provide insurance coverage for its employees' birth control.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled 2-1 Friday that the Mennonite-owned Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation does not qualify for a religious exemption.

The court reasoned the business, owned by the Hahn family, is a secular, for-profit company with no formal ties to a church or other religious group.

"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," Judge Robert Cowen wrote.

"We simply conclude that the law has long recognized the distinction between the owners of a corporation and the corporation itself," he explained. "A holding to the contrary -- that a for-profit corporation can engage in religious exercise -- would eviscerate the fundamental principle that a corporation is a legally distinct entity from its owners."

Randall Wenger, with the Harrisburg-based Independence Law Center, which is representing Conestoga, said he and his client are now exploring the "best next step."

"A corporation is a separate legal entity, yes," The Central Penn Business Journal quoted Wenger. "But I think business owners, particularly family business owners, understand that a family business is a reflection of the family.

"It's the family that makes the choices about how the business is run," he continued. "They're the ones who are making a decision about facilitating something that they find immoral."

"The decision of the court abstractly recognizes that the corporation is a separate individual, but it doesn't understand the reality that it's real people who make the decisions, who then are accountable for their decisions before God," he said.

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