Federal Appeals Court Says For-Profit Firm Is Not A Person With Right To Exercise Religious Freedom

Americans United Asked Court Not To Grant Exemption From Birth Control Mandate To Secular Corporation

A Michigan-based for-profit business that produces organic foods has no right to an exemption from the Obama administration’s birth control mandate, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday.

In a unanimous opinion, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Eden Foods, Inc. is not entitled to an exemption from the federal Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate, which requires most businesses to provide their employees with health insurance that includes no-cost birth control. The court said a secular, for-profit company is not a person that can exercise religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Americans United Executive Director the Rev. Barry W. Lynn said the court made the right call.

“No business should be allowed to impose the boss’ religious views on its employees,” Lynn asserted. “Corporations simply aren’t people, and they don’t have the same rights as individuals.”

The ruling was based on the 6th Circuit Court’s recent decision in Autocam Corporation v. Sebelius, in which a secular, for-profit corporation was not granted an exemption from the birth control mandate.

The court added that the mandate was not designed to hinder religious freedom, and that Eden Foods’ Roman Catholic owner Michael Potter does not have standing to bring claims on the company’s behalf.

“Free-exercise-of religion rights have never been extended to secular, for-profit corporations like Eden Foods, which are ‘not the alter ego[s] of [their] owners for purposes of religious belief and exercise,’” the court said. “Moreover, Potter’s First Amendment rights were not infringed by the mandate because that regulation does not seek to burden religion, but rather to promote public health and gender equality.”

Americans United had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in July encouraging the 6th Circuit Court to uphold the birth control mandate.

Eden Foods, Inc., et al. v. Sebelius is one of numerous legal challenges brought by secular, for-profit corporations seeking exemptions from the birth control mandate. The issue is expected to eventually come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.