ANN ARBOR, MI — All their corporate offices display a document that reflects their core value, “Honor God in all we do by serving our customers and employees with honesty and integrity.” Karen and Rod Mersinos’ business success is an example of the fruits of hard work and their Christian faith. Rod began as an hourly wage construction worker. He and Karen placed a second mortgage on their home to start their first company which ultimately grew into a multi-million dollar enterprise with 184 employees.
Based on their deeplyheldreligious beliefs and the teachingsof the Catholic Church, Karen and Rod Mersino have never offered insurance which included coverage for contraception, sterilization, abortion, and abortifacients. They believe these procedures involve gravely immoral practices and the intentional destruction of innocent human life. However, the HHS Mandate promulgated by the Obama Administration now requires them to pay for health insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization or pay draconian fines. Because of the HHS Mandate, the Merinos must now choose between honoring God and honoring the HHS Mandate—an unconstitutional choice.
As a result, the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, late last Friday filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Karen and Rod Mersino and the Mersino Management Company in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The case has been assigned to Judge Paul D. Borman. The purpose of the lawsuit is to seek a court ruling that declares the HHS Mandate violates the Constitution and Federal statutes and to permanently block Government enforcement of the HHS Mandate because it violates deeply held religious beliefs of employers like the Mersinos.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief of the Thomas More Law Center, commenting on their latest lawsuit stated, “We’re on the path to Christian persecution in the United States. The federal government through the HHS Mandate attempts to bully Christians into violating their God–given, constitutionally protected, right to freedom of religion and conscience. Let’s be clear about our case: it’s about conscience– not contraception, as the Obama administration would have you believe. It’s about the right of Christians to honor God. It’s about the religious freedom of Americans to practice their faith, — free from government coercion. It’s about Americans fighting for their constitutional rights to religious liberty under the First Amendment.”
Karen and Rod Mersino are active members of Legatus,an organization founded in 1987 to bring together the three key areas of a Catholic business leader’s life– Faith, Family and Business. Based on their concept of Christian stewardship, they promote numerous national and world-wide charitable initiatives, including the Holy Cross Children’s Services and Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan. Because of their Christian Stewardship, they also strive to provide their employees with health care coverage superior to coverage generally available in the Michigan market.
With 184 employees, the Mersinos face a penalty of $7 million every yearthey refuse to abide by the dictates of the HHS Mandate. Under the specific HHS Mandate, they would pay penalties in the amount $2000 per year per employee, amounting to $308,000 per year, plus another $6.7 million per year under the Internal Revenue Code calculated at $100 per employee per day.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the HHS Mandate under the 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 first paragraph of the lawsuit succinctly sets forth its basis: “This is a case about religious freedom. Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father of our country, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and our third president, when describing the construct of our Constitution proclaimed, ‘No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.’”
This is the fifth legal challenge to the HHS Mandate mounted by the Thomas More Law Center, which has filed three separate lawsuits in the last two weeks. On March 12th the Law Center, assisted by local co-counsel Paul Pizzo and Scott Richards of the Tampa-firm of Fowler, White and Boggs, filed a lawsuit in a Florida federal court on behalf of Thomas Beckwith, a Southern Baptist, and his Beckwith Electric Company. On March 21st, the Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of Michael Potter and his company Eden Foods.
Named as Defendants in the lawsuit are Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; Seth D. Harris, Acting Secretary of the Department of Labor; Jack Lew, Secretary of the Department of Treasury; and their respective departments.
The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America. The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.