Healthcare Website Failures Force New HHS Mandate Challenge

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, filed a federal lawsuit yesterday evening on behalf of Joseph Williams III, his son Joseph Williams IV, his brother Mark Williams (the Williams Family), and their business Electrolock, located in Hiram, Ohio.  The lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the HHS Mandate was filed in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Williams Family, who are devout Catholics, object to the HHS mandate requirement that they provide insurance for their employees covering abortifacients, contraception and sterilization.  The Williams Family cannot abandon their religious beliefs and supply the mandated services, drugs and devices.  Therefore, in an effort to avoid compromising their religious beliefs by complying with the HHS Mandate, the Williams Family initially paid each of their 43 employees several thousand dollars so the employees could purchase their own health insurance through the government Exchanges. 

When employees began to have problems with the Exchange website, the Williams Family had to respond to the complaints and the serious concerns of their employees who were facing loss of health care, frustration with the flawed government website, and the decision to look for other employment that did provide healthcare.  The Williams Family wishes to continue providing the quality healthcare that it has provided to its employees for the last several years in accordance with their Christian Stewardship and Catholic Beliefs.  At this point, with the HHS Mandate being the law of the land, the only way this can be done is by seeking relief from the courts.

Erin Mersino, the TMLC attorney who is handling the case, commented, “The Federal government is violating the Williams Family’s constitutional right to religious freedom.   If the HHS Mandate is allowed to stand, the Free Exercise of Religion guaranteed under our Constitution will have little meaning.”   

Under the final HHS Mandate rule, the Williams Family is being forced to make a choice: comply with the HHS mandate and violate their religious beliefs or terminate their insurance plan which would eventually send the company into bankruptcy when draconian fines kick in next year for employers with less than 50 employees.

In a final attempt to provide for their employees in good conscience, the Williams Family has organized a self-insured employee health plan which they are seeking to implement. However, since the plan excludes abortion, sterilization, contraception, abortifacients and related education, the Williams Family requires an injunction from the court in order to implement the plan without penalties, which would exceed $1.5 million dollars per year.

Prior to Obamacare and the HHS Mandate, as faithful stewards of the Catholic faith, the Williams Family have always offered health insurance which excludes abortion, sterilization, contraception, abortifacients and related education. They have stated both orally and in writing that their Catholic faith dictates that the very commission of providing abortifacient drugs to their employees is a formal cooperation with evil.

In accordance with their practice of stewardship, the Williams Family donate approximately 10% of their pre-tax earnings to the Catholic Church while also donating to the religious organizations such as the Apostolate for Family Consecration, Franciscan University and the Knights of Columbus.

Richard Thompson, TMLC President and Chief Counsel, commented, “Despite all of  the political and media focus on the problems created by Obamacare and its dysfunctional healthcare website, we must not lose sight of the fact that the HHS Mandate violates our first and most sacred freedoms—freedom of religion and conscience.   And in this regard, all Americans, not just Catholics or Protestants, must be concerned.  Americans cannot remain indifferent to the fact that one of our most fundamental rights under our Constitution is under attack.  This is why TMLC has thus far filed ten Federal lawsuits on behalf of both Catholics and Protestants challenging the HHS Mandate.”   

The Law Center’s lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the HHS Mandate under First Amendment rights to the Free Exercise of Religion, Free Speech and the Establishment Clause.   It also claims that the HHS Mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The lawsuit names as Defendants in the lawsuit Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; Thomas Perez, Secretary of the Department of Labor; Jack Lew, Secretary of the Department of Treasury; and their respective departments.               

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