Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell

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Description:  The Hahns, founders and owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, are a Mennonite Christian family. They desire to run the family business, a manufacturer of custom wood kitchen cabinet parts, in a manner that reflects their sincerely held religious beliefs, including their belief that God requires respect for all human life. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys represent the Hahns and their company in the federal lawsuit challenging the Obama administration abortion pill mandate. The mandate forces employers, regardless of religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties by the IRS.

La. decision brings ADF victories against abortion-pill mandate to 20 wins, 0 losses

In Pa., Conestoga Wood Specialties receives injunction after US Supreme Court win


Attorney sound bites:  Kevin Theriot #1  |  Kevin Theriot #2  |  David Cortman

ALEXANDRIA, La. and HARRISBURG, Pa. Louisiana College’s victory over the Obama administration’s abortion-pill mandate Wednesday puts the number of Alliance Defending Freedom wins against the mandate at 20-0. In addition, another ADF client, Conestoga Wood Specialties in Pennsylvania, received a district court order Thursday against the mandate as a result of its June 30 victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell.

In its ruling against the mandate in Louisiana College v. Sebelius, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Alexandria Division, called the government’s claimed attempt at an accommodation for non-profit religious organizations like Louisiana College “a subterfuge.”

“All Americans should oppose unjust laws that force people – under threat of punishment – to give up their freedom to live and work according to their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “In the case of Louisiana College, it simply wants to continue to operate as a Christian college as it has since its founding in 1906. The court did the right thing in striking down the mandate as it applies to the school’s health insurance coverage and in identifying the flaws in the administration’s so-called ‘accommodation’ of religious organizations, which, as we’ve said all along, is no accommodation at all.”

The “accommodation,” recently rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court itself in an Illinois lawsuit, requires private colleges to “self-certify” their compliance with the mandate by filling out a form that authorizes their insurance companies to cover objectionable items and services.

“In this case, we would go so far as to say that self-certification is vastly more than a mere ‘administrative’ act,” the district court wrote in its opinion Wednesday. “Rather the challenged regulations and their application trigger a subterfuge requiring indirect action the regulations could not do if they applied to Plaintiff directly.”

“The cure is actually worse than the disease,” Theriot explained. “It’s bad enough when the government forces you to do something objectionable; it’s worse when the government forces you to instruct someone else to do something objectionable.”

“The administration’s narrow gesture does nothing to protect faith-based employers from the mandate, which the court rightly found to violate federal law,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “Whether we are talking about non-profit Christian organizations like Louisiana College or family-owned businesses like Conestoga Wood Specialties, the government has no business putting religious freedom on the negotiating table, or picking and choosing who is allowed to exercise faith and how.”
  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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Additional resources: Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell

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Previous news releases:

  • 2014-06-30: US Supreme Court rules against Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate
  • 2014-06-30: US Supreme Court rules against Obama admin.’s abortion pill mandate
  • 2014-03-21: ADF: Government has no mandate to meddle in a family’s business
  • 2014-03-12: ADF: Forcing families to pay for other people’s abortion pills isn’t freedom
  • 2014-02-11: ADF: A family's business is not the government's business
  • 2014-01-29: Diverse coalition opposes abortion pill mandate at US Supreme Court
  • 2014-01-10: ADF to Supreme Court: Gov’t shouldn’t force Americans to choose between making a living and living free
  • 2013-11-26: Supreme Court accepts Pa. Mennonite cabinetmakers’ challenge to abortion pill mandate
  • 2013-11-04: Pa. Mennonite cabinetmakers answer Obama admin. in brief at Supreme Court
  • 2013-10-24: 18 states encourage Supreme Court to hear Pa. abortion pill mandate case
  • 2013-09-19: Pa. woodworkers ask Supreme Court to shelve abortion pill mandate
  • 2013-08-14: Pa. abortion pill mandate case to be appealed to US Supreme Court
  • 2013-07-31: Family business asks full 3rd Circuit to protect religious freedom from Obama mandate

  • Matt Bowman: Hobby Lobby ruling applies to more than just abortifacients (National Review, 2014-07-01)
  • Matt Bowman: Conestoga and Hobby Lobby—the aftermath begins (National Review, 2014-07-01)
  • David Cortman: A victory for integrity, not just Hobby Lobby (USA Today, 2014-06-30)
  • Matt Bowman: You will join the freedom of religion witch hunt...or else (Washington Examiner, 2014-06-02)
  • Joseph La Rue: Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act explained (Jurist, 2014-04-24)
  • Matt Bowman: How the coercion coalition is imposing the new “freedom” in America (Washington Examiner, 2014-03-27)
  • David Cortman: Abortion pill mandate, Hobby Lobby and why the Supreme Court should honor faith (Washington Times, 2014-03-25)
  • Matt Bowman: Religion is your business (National Review, 2014-03-21)
  • Matt Bowman: If a company can be African American, can’t it be religious? (Public Discourse, 2014-03-21)
  • Matt Bowman: Arms control and those Obamacare contraception mandates (Washington Examiner, 2014-02-12)
  • Kerri Kupec: Obama’s selective entrepreneurial praise (, 2014-02-03)
  • Matt Bowman: Defending religious freedom from Obamacare (Washington Times, 2013-12-01)
  • Matt Bowman: With Obamacare, business doesn’t have a prayer (Washington Times, 2013-09-05)
  • Matt Bowman: Free to “exercise” religion, too (Philadelphia Inquirer, 2013-08-16)

Other resources:

  • Video: Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-Pa.) on Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius and the abortion pill mandate (2014-03-24) (4:20)

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