The Supreme Court is expected to decide as early as today whether the government can force two family businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, to provide employee health plans that cover abortion-inducing drugs and devices. Countless other faith-based family businesses face devastating fines under Obamacare if they don’t break their moral and religious convictions and comply with the same mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.
For families such as the Heplers watching the “Hobby Lobby case,” the issue of religious freedom is real and the HHS mandate is personal. The Heplers, who own Seneca Hardwood Lumber in Pennsylvania, want to continue providing employees health insurance without the government forcing them to violate their Catholic faith. They say the Affordable Care Act seeks to compel them to choose between living out their religion and running their business.
In the hours before the Supreme Court decision is announced, The Daily Signal looks back at some of the images from an exclusive video interview in which the Hepler family talks with passion about Americans’ need to “wake up” and stand for religious liberty — our “first freedom.”
Wayne Hepler: “This is a creeping kind of glacier that slowly erodes the religious freedom and the natural freedoms that we all enjoy. Everybody needs to wake up.”
Since 1961, Hepler has run Seneca Hardwood in Emlenton, Pa. Above: Seneca’s retail outlet, the Hardwood Mall.
Hepler: “We take the timber from the woods and mill it into lumber. Then we take it to … Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company for the drying process and manufacture it into the finished products.”
What does work mean to the Hepler family? “It’s a gift that enables us to participate in creation. Stewardship – that’s the key to putting the resources that God entrusts us with to use for the common good.”
Hepler says he’s grateful for the opportunity to provide employment for neighbors in his rural Pennsylvania community.
With the St. Thomas More House of Prayer, the family offers a much-used public facility for neighbors and travelers alike. Hepler: “There, we pray and promote the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the public prayer of the Catholic Church for every day of the liturgical year.”
Last year, a federal District Court judge’s ruling in favor of Seneca Hardwood gave the family temporary relief from the HHS mandate. Along with more than 300 other plaintiffs challenging the Obamacare rule, they look forward to the Supreme Court decision in the cases of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood.
Carrie Kolesar, daughter of Wayne Hepler and part-owner of Seneca Hardwood: “The decisions that you make and your religious beliefs are really inseparable.”
Kolesar: Her religious beliefs are how she “makes sense of the world” and the “meaning of existence.”
Kolesar with her father: “It doesn’t really make much sense to have a set of beliefs and then go ahead in your day-to-day life…and make decisions in a way that’s contrary to those beliefs.”
“The government is essentially saying, ‘You have to be a hypocrite.’ It seems like that’s just degrading to society in general.”
Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heplers’ lawyer in the case: “The abortion pill mandate forces families to basically choose between their faith and working and earning a living for themselves and providing jobs.”
Bowman: “So families who believe in the sanctity of human life – especially as a deeply held religious belief – … are forced by these bureaucratic decisions that came out of Obamacare to choose between following their faith and earning a living as a family or instead having to violate their faith.”
Bowman: “Anytime you see someone else’s rights violated, that should be a concern. … If religious freedom isn’t particularly important to an individual, they could still see that if you can violate one right, what’s to keep another right from being violated?”
Bowman: Obamacare’s HHS mandate is “incompatible with the Constitution and with the value that America has always placed on religious freedom.”