While presenting an oral argument in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last fall, a lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department (Benjamin Berwick) told a federal judge that the Obama administration believed it could force the judge’s own wife—a physician—to act against her religious faith in the conduct of her medical practice.
The case was Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius. Berwick argued that if an individual forms a corporation (to limit their liability, for malpractice in the case of a doctor), they lose their freedom of religion. Here’s the exact exchange:
Judge Walton: …my wife has a medical practice. She has a corporation, but she’s the sole owner and sole stock owner. If she had strongly-held religious belief and she made that known that she operated her medical practice from that perspective, could she be required to pay for these types of items if she felt that that was causing her to violate her religious beliefs?
Berwick: Well, Your Honor, I think what it comes down to is whether there is a legal separation between the company and—
Judge Walton: It’s a legal separation. I mean, she obviously has created the corporation to limit her potential individual liability, but she’s the sole owner and everybody associates that medical practice with her as an individual. And if, you know, she was very active in her church and her church had these same type of strong religious-held beliefs, and members of the church and the community became aware of the fact that she is funding something that is totally contrary to what she professes as her belief, why should she have to do that?
Berwick: Well, your honor, again, I think it comes down to the fact that the corporation and the owner truly are separate. They are separate legal entities.
Judge Walton: So, she’d have to give up the limitation that conceivably would befall on her regarding liability in order to exercise her religion? So, she’d have to go as an individual proprietor with no corporation protection in order to assert her religious right? Isn’t that as significant burden?
Read the whole thing. Thankfully, Mr. Berwick did not prevail. Judge Walton (photo above) granted Tyndale House Publishers a preliminary injunction from the HHS “contraception” (read abortifacient) mandate.
HT: Joe Carter