The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national non-profit public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, today announced that it has filed its fourth legal challenge to the HHS Mandate. This fourth case was filed yesterday on behalf of Michael Potter, Chairman and President of Eden Foods and his for-profit company, Eden Foods, Inc. in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
TMLC attorney, Erin Mersino, has been spearheading the Law Center’s legal initiatives against the Federal Government’s HHS Mandate, which requires companies to provide insurance for their employees that cover and promote abortion inducing drugs and contraception. Thus far, Mersino has secured preliminary injunctions against enforcement of the HHS Mandate for two of the employers she is representing. Motions for preliminary injunctions in her other two cases are forthcoming. And more lawsuits are being considered.
According to Richard Thompson, TMLC’s President and Chief Counsel, “The HHS Mandate is a deliberate and direct attack by the Federal Government on religious liberty. The Federal Government ignored the religious beliefs of millions of Americans who oppose abortion causing drugs and chemical contraception. In the final analysis, the HHS Mandate is a violation of fundamental constitutional principles relating to the free exercise of religion and conscience. And it must be stopped.”
Michael Potter is a practicing Roman Catholic. As a Catholic, he strives to follow the teachings of his faith which include the belief that “any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation, whether as an end or means”—including abortifacients and contraception—is wrong. The HHS Mandate coerces Potter to make a choice between violating a foremost tenet of his faith and violating the HHS mandate. If his company violates the HHS Mandate it would face yearly fines of $196,000 plus a yearly tax penalty of over $4.5 million per tax year assessed by the IRS. Potter brought this lawsuit on his behalf and on behalf of his company because he cannot compartmentalize his faith and his business practices.
Eden Foods, co-founded by Potter in the late 1960s, is the oldest natural food company in North America and the largest independent manufacturer of dry grocery organic foods. In 2009 Eden Foods was selected as the best food company in the world by the Better World Shopping Guide, which also acknowledged the company’s outstanding record in social and environmental responsibility. The company employs 128 employees.
Last week, Erin Mersino, 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 challenging the HHS Mandate on behalf of Thomas Beckwith, a Southern Baptist, and his Beckwith Electric Company. Ironically, Thomas Beckwith’s ancestors landed on American shores in 1626 to escape religious persecution in England.
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Also last week, Mersino obtained a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the HHS mandate on behalf of Thomas Monaghan, a nationally known Catholic businessman.
Interestingly, for years, Michael Potter was able to exclude from his company’s Blue Cross policy, insurance coverage for contraception and abortion inducing drugs, categorized by Blue Cross as “Life Style” drugs. However, last week Potter discovered that Blue Cross inserted the HHS mandated coverage without his knowledge or consent.
The first paragraph of the lawsuit succinctly sets forth the nature of the case: “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.’”
The purpose of the lawsuit is to seek a court ruling that permanently blocks implementation of the HHS Mandate against Michael Potter and his company Eden Foods, Inc.
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.