Court Smacks Down For-Profit Religious Challenge To Obamacare
Ultra-devout Catholic Michael Potter is the head honcho at Eden Foods, which filed a court challenge to portions of the Affordable Care Act that would require his company to provide reproductive care to women employees, including birth control. The Sixth Circuit has ruled forcefully – as my grand-dad would say, Potter got smacked down like a red-headed stepchild:
In the battle over the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act, the secular, for-profit corporations challenging the law’s contraception requirement have focused almost all of their arguments on the insidious overreach of the federal government into the personal religious practices of business owners. Of course, those craft chains, auto parts manufacturers, and processed foods businesses have done this on purpose. That’s because they’re engaged in a legal sleight-of-hand, a shell game in which one set of arguments serves as bait while another more pernicious argument advances. No matter what conservatives argue, the for-profit challenges to the birth control benefit are not about religious liberty, they are about a lack of corporate accountability.
On Thursday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals made that clear in its opinion in Eden Foods v. Sebelius, when it held the individual plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the mandate and that the for-profit, secular corporate plaintiff was not a “person” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Following its earlier decision in Autocam, the court affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the Obama administration from enforcing the mandate against Eden Foods and sent the case back to the lower court to be dismissed for a lack of jurisdiction.
The opinion dismissing Eden Foods’ claims isn’t particularly long, but it makes clear the court is tiring of these challenges and sees them for what they really are: cloaked attempts to manipulate corporate law for individual gain. The plaintiff, Michael Potter—founder, chairperson, president, and shareholder of Eden Foods—is a Roman Catholic who challenged the mandate on the grounds it violates his “deeply held religious beliefs.” Citing an interview in Salon with Irin Carmon in footnote, the Sixth Circuit noted those beliefs were actually more of a “laissez-faire, anti-government screed” than a reflection of Roman Catholic ideology.
Ouch! Legalese fans can read the entire juicy ruling (in .pdf format) here.