The family of a current Notre Dame student has filed a lawsuit against Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and a Catholic, and other federal officials. Like Notre Dame’s lawsuit, their suit attacks the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services mandate requiring that employers provide coverage for contraception, sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and related education and counseling.
Margaret Kennedy, a senior accounting and philosophy major, is one of the plaintiffs of Autocam Corp. v. Sebelius. The Kennedy family holds majority ownership in Autocam and Autocam Medical, two global high-precision manufacturing companies headquartered in West Michigan that serve the automotive and medical device industries. The two companies employ 1,700 people worldwide and are required to comply with the HHS mandate for their 680 U.S. employees.
In a complaint filed on October 8 in the U.S. District Court for Michigan’s Western District, the Kennedy family argued against the HHS mandate on the basis that it requires them to pay for products and speech that violates their deeply held religious convictions. They are represented pro bono by the CatholicVote Legal Defense Fund, the Thomas More Society, and Miller Johnson, a Grand Rapids firm.
The Kennedys allege that the mandate forces them to violate the same religious beliefs that have motivated them to offer a high-quality, affordable healthcare plan.
“The mandate puts me in an untenable situation because it asks me to choose among three options: (1) violate my conscience, by paying directly for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs; (2) violate my commitment to the Church’s social teaching, by dropping coverage; or (3) continue to offer health care that does not comply with the mandate, and thus face a $24 million per year fine, which would put Autocam’s U.S. operations out of business,” said John Kennedy, CEO of Autocam and Autocam Medical in an interview with National Review Online.
“I don’t understand why the Obama administration is attacking two manufacturing companies that provide 680 jobs with an average hourly W-2 of $53,000, and are hiring — especially when most of those jobs are in a state like Michigan, where the economy is still recovering from the upheavals in the auto industry,” he added.
In a television commercial currently airing in five major markets, John Kennedy described Autocam’s healthcare plan.
“We provide $1,500 toward their [employee’s] deductible [of $2,000 for a single plan or $4,000 for a family plan],” he said. “We pay 100 percent of preventive healthcare costs, and the plan is designed so they pay no premiums.” Autocam’s wellness plan was also recently named to the Honor Roll of the Michigan’s Healthiest Employers Program.
The Kennedys emphasize that the HHS mandate forces them to pay directly for the mandate coverage because, like the University of Notre Dame and most large employers, Autocam and Autocam Medical are self-insured.
“Self-insured companies like Autocam and Autocam Medical don’t pay insurance premiums,” Kennedy said in the same interview. “Each month, we are presented with an invoice from our administrator that specifically names every drug and procedure our employees use, without identifying the employee. Then we write a check as a self-insured employer to cover the cost.”
Margaret Kennedy spoke with The Rover about the significance of the suit. While there are currently over 100 plaintiffs in cases challenging the HHS mandate, there are less than a dozen for-profit plaintiffs. Hobby Lobby, which filed in September, is the most recent for-profit company to sue.
“A lot of emphasis and attention has been given to Catholic hospitals, schools, and other ministries that are affected by the mandate, but the mandate affects everybody,” she said. “Employers who are Catholic are being forced to make the same decisions that explicitly Catholic organizations are.”
Margaret Kennedy says that her family does not seek to impose their beliefs on others but wants to preserve their ability to operate their businesses as Catholic entrepreneurs.
“My parents have worked hard to live out their faith even as Catholic business owners,” she said. “This does not mean that they impose their faith on every person who walks through the door, but it does mean that they seek to act in their business operations in a way that is in accord with the teachings of the Church.” Seeking an exemption from the mandate “does not mean that [John Kennedy] requires his employees to become Catholic or subscribe to the teachings of the Catholic Church” when they enter the workplace.
Michael Bradley is a junior philosophy and theology major living in Dillon Hall. Contact him at email@example.com.
To learn more about the Autocam lawsuit and see the Autocam commercial, visit CatholicVote.org/freedom.