By Adam Rubenfire, Crain News Service
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (June 27, 2013) — A West Virginia Chevy dealer is suing several federal departments and administrators responsible for the Affordable Care Act, alleging the law violates his beliefs by requiring him to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives taken after sex.
A suit filed earlier this week on behalf of Joe Holland, owner of Joe Holland Chevrolet, states that his car dealership "should serve as a form of religious ministry and witness to the truth of God's Word," and therefore shouldn't be required to pay for the contraceptives.
Mr. Holland, who said he is a born-again Christian, is suing the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury, in addition to the Cabinet secretaries that head those agencies. He is being represented by lawyers from faith- and family-based organizations as well as a private law firm. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Charleston.
The administration has faced lawsuits from many other employers with religious objections to the Affordable Care Act. In response, the Department of Health and Human Services issued interim rules in February that allowed for a company's insurance provider to provide contraceptive coverage through a separate policy not paid for by the employer.
Representatives from the agencies being sued did not respond to requests for comment.
The White House saids on its website that the mandate does not cover drugs that cause abortion, such as RU 486, which terminates early pregnancies.
The law allows employers that have fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees to avoid coverage without paying penalties. Many small auto dealerships have around that many employees. But Mr. Holland has about 150 employees working at his dealership—which also sells Hyundai and Volkswagen vehicles—so he can't avoid paying fines. Penalties can vary, but the suit alleges that Mr. Holland could be fined as much as $100 per day, per employee.
Mr. Holland's suit said his commitment to Christianity is present in several aspects of the business. The dealership's mission statement notes that the company's "corporate purpose is to glorify God by being faithful stewards for all that is entrusted to us."
The store's signage features an icthus, a fish-like symbol of Christianity, and is closed on Sundays. It also employs a chaplain and supports Christian organizations, according to the lawsuit.
Jeremiah Dys, president and general counsel of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia and a member of Mr. Holland's legal team, said Mr. Holland's concerns about the mandate go beyond contraceptive coverage—he doesn't believe the government should tell him how to run his business.
"What he's concerned about, is a government that would penalize you for holding to a particular religious belief and doing business according to that belief," Mr. Dys said.
Mr. Dys said Mr. Holland is not opposed to covering birth control practiced prior to sexual intercourse and has offered his employees coverage for such birth control methods in past benefit plans.
This report appeared on the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.