Commentary Law and Policy

Eighteen For-Profit Companies Fighting to Eliminate the Birth Control Benefit

Jodi Jacobson

Eighteen for-profit companies have filed lawsuits to overturn the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act, which requires that all insurance policies cover birth control without a co-pay as part of preventive care. These companies argue that including insurance coverage for birth control "violates their religious freedom." Here's a brief introduction to those companies and their cases.

Eighteen for-profit companies have filed lawsuits to avoid complying with the the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires that all insurance policies cover birth control without a co-pay as part of preventive care. Often misleadingly characterized as mandating “free birth control,” the ACA, otherwise known as Obamacare, requires that all insurance policies cover all forms of basic preventive care without a co-pay, including well-woman, well-baby, and well-child visits, as well as other basic prevention care for men and women. This coverage is intended to save costs and promote public health.

Basic preventive reproductive and sexual health-care services, including contraception, are therefore also covered without a co-pay; as part of the mandate, all insurance plans must provide coverage without a co-pay for all methods of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Employees earn their salaries and their benefits, and many pay for all or a portion of their health-care premiums out of their salaries. As such, none of this coverage is “free,” but is rather covered by the policies they are earning or for which they are paying.

Nonetheless, the 18 companies that have sued to overturn the birth control benefit are doing so based on several misleading claims. One is that providing insurance policies that cover birth control violates the “religious freedom” of the companies’ owners. It is difficult to see how a critical public health intervention accessed through an employee’s health plan violates the religious freedom of the owner of the company. In fact, the reverse seems to be true; not allowing an employee to access coverage he or she has earned would appear to violate the employee’s freedoms, first and foremost. 

The owners of these companies share the belief that a woman is pregnant as soon as there is a fertilized egg (the medical definition of pregnancy is successful implantation of an embryo in the uterine wall) and that a fertilized egg has the same rights as a born person. They also claim that the ACA forces them to cover “abortifacients,” with most pointing to emergency contraception methods such as Plan B to make their case. Emergency contraception, however, is just that: Contraception. It prevents ovulation, and therefore fertilization, and does not work after an egg has been fertilized.   

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These lawsuits, now in various phases of litigation, are posing a critical challenge not only to the Affordable Care Act, but ultimately to the ability of all people to make the most profoundly personal decisions about whether, when, and under what circumstances to have a child and build a family.

Below is a list of these companies and the status of their cases. And Planned Parenthood Federation of America has launched a campaign enabling you to tell these companies what you think.

1. Tyndale House

Summary: An Illinois publishing company focusing on Christian books (and Bibles). The founder’s argument is that he shouldn’t have to provide his 260 employees with contraceptives he equates with abortion.

Status: U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton of the district court granted a preliminary injunction.

Tyndale House President and Chief Executive Mark D. Taylor.

Tyndale House President and Chief Executive Mark D. Taylor.

President and Chief Executive: Mark D. Taylor

Taylor sees ACA birth control mandate as a test of God’s law vs. Man’s law. “I’ve always thought—in a theoretical way—that I might someday face a situation where the government was asking or telling me to do something that was counter to God’s law as I understood it. If such a situation arose, I hoped I would have the backbone to stand tall and disobey the government mandate. Well, that day seems to have come.” (World Magazine; October 2012)

Taylor equates Plan B and intrauterine devices (IUDs) with abortions because they prevent implantation. “As a Protestant, I don’t have a moral objection to contraceptives per se. But [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)] defines contraception to include abortifacients such as Plan B (the morning-after pill), Ella (the week-after pill), and intrauterine devices. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admits that one purpose of these drugs and devices is to keep the fertilized egg from “implantation” onto the wall of the uterus. In other words, their purpose is to cause an early abortion of a human being that is made in the image of God.” (World Magazine; October 2012)

Taylor feels he has biblical confirmation that his lawsuit is protecting the word of God. “The day after we filed the lawsuit, the daily reading from The One Year Bible included the first chapter of Jeremiah and these verses:

The LORD gave me this message: ‘I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations’ (Jeremiah 1:4-5, NLT).

How’s that for biblical confirmation that the unborn baby is important in the eyes of God! After reading that passage, I felt confirmed in my responsibility to stand up against a government that is trampling on my religious liberty. May God be merciful to all of us.” (World Magazine; October 2012)

2. Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics

Summary: The produce processing and packing companies are Ohio-based but serve 23 states and employ about 400 people. “The government is requiring them to enter into a contract and to pay for things that they find morally objectionable, and they just want to be able to continue what they’ve been doing,” one of their lawyers argued. They’ve excluded contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs from their company health insurance for the past decade. Co-founders are two Catholic brothers.

The produce processing and packing companies are Ohio-based but serve 23 states and employ about 400 people.

The produce processing and packing companies are Ohio-based but serve 23 states and employ about 400 people.

Status: Complaint filed. In response to plaintiffs’ contention that their case is sufficiently related to the Tyndale case, the district court ordered plaintiffs to demonstrate as much by February 8.

Co-founder and CEO: Frank Gilardi

Co-founder and President: Phil Gilardi

“Freshway Foods trucks bear signs stating, ‘It’s not a choice, it’s a child,’ as a way to promote the owners’ anti-abortion views to the public, according to [a] legal complaint.” (Journal News; January 2013)

Freshway Foods has deliberately excluded contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs from its company health coverage for 10 years. “’Our clients believe that having to pay for contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization will cause them to violate their religious beliefs and moral values,’ said Edward White, Senior Counsel of the [American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ)]. ‘They have specifically excluded such things from their company’s health insurance plan for the past ten years. The HHS mandate, however, will require them to pay for such drugs and services on April 1st. They have filed this lawsuit seeking an injunction against the mandate so they can continue to run their business in accordance with their religious beliefs and moral values.’” (ACLJ; January 2013)

3. Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation

Norman Hahn.

Norman Hahn.

Summary: A Pennsylvania-based wood cabinet and specialty products manufacturer run by Mennonites who think some birth-control products such as Plan B are “sinful and immoral” and “an intrinsic evil and a sin against God.” The company employs 950 people.

Status: The court dismissed a motion for preliminary injunction, but the plaintiffs appealed to the Third Circuit last month.

Owners: Norman Hahn, Elizabeth Hahn, Norman Lamar Hahn, Anthony N. Hahn, and Kevin Hahn 

The owners argue they are acting in accordance with their faith by not covering contraception, and being forced to cover it is “un-American.” “‘People of faith should not be punished for making decisions according to the deepest convictions of that faith,’ said Attorney Charles W. Proctor, III, who is representing the Hahn family. ‘When government grows so invasive to force persons to violate their conscience, government is out of control and clearly outside the bounds of our Constitutions’ Bill of Rights .… The Health and Human Services abortion pill mandate would unconstitutionally force the Hahn family, owners and operators of Conestoga Wood Specialties, to do something offensive to their conscience—under threat of onerously large fines and penalties,’ he continued. ‘This is un-American.’” (Christian News; December 2012) 

They argue that Plan B is equivalent to an abortion, and call it “intrinsic evil.” “‘The Mennonite Church teaches that taking of life, which includes anything that terminates a fertilized embryo, is intrinsic evil, and a sin against God to which they are held accountable,’ said the lawsuit brought by Norman Hahn, Norman Lemar Hahn and Anthony H. Hahn. Both abortion and any abortifacient contraception that may cause an abortion are ‘equally objectionable,’ they said.” (Washington Times; December 2012) 

They have said mandating that they offer contraception is “sinful and immoral.” “Conestoga Wood in December had sued the U.S. Secretaries of Labor, Health and Human Services and the Treasury, alleging it would be ‘sinful and immoral’ to make the company comply with the law by paying for or supporting certain forms of contraception.” (Lancaster Online; January 2013) 

4. Hercules Industries, Inc.

Summary: A Colorado corporation that manufactures heating, ventilation, and air conditioning products and employs 303 staffers. 

James Newland, Paul Newland, William Newland, Andrew Newland

James Newland, Paul Newland, William Newland, Andrew Newland

Status: The district court granted an injunction. The government has appealed to the Tenth Circuit.

Founders and Owners: James Newland, Paul Newland, William Newland, and Andrew Newland

Number of children: The Newlands are five sibling-owners of Hercules Industries. The number of children they each have is unknown. 

Hercules is a for-profit, secular employer, but is incorporating Catholicism into its “corporate culture.”  “Although Hercules is a for-profit, secular employer, the Newlands [founders] adhere to the Catholic denomination of the Christian faith. According to the Newlands, ‘they seek to run Hercules in a manner that reflects their sincerely held religious beliefs.’ Thus, for the past year and a half the Newlands have implemented within Hercules a program designed to build their corporate culture based on Catholic principles.” (Court files; July 2012)

Hercules Industries’ previous health insurance plan intentionally left out contraceptive coverage because of the Newlands’ Catholic beliefs. “According to Plaintiffs, Hercules maintains a self-insured group plan for its employees ‘[a]s part of fulfilling their organizational mission and Catholic beliefs and commitments.’ Significantly, because the Catholic Church condemns the use of contraception, Hercules self-insured plan does not cover abortifacent drugs, contraception, or sterilization.” (Court files; July 2012)

Ironically, Hercules Industries was going to be awarded a Good Citizenship Award for a number of features, including its health-care coverage. The award was taken away when the company won its court injunction. “Hercules Industries, a heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning manufacturer that employs 300 workers and has been in business in the Mile-High City for 50 years, was to be honored with a ‘Good Citizenship Award.’ The laurel was in recognition of contributions to the community, including the historic restoration of company headquarters and, ironically, its ‘generous employee health care coverage.’” (Fox News; August 2012)

5. Hobby Lobby

Summary: A national craft supply chain based in Oklahoma City that employs over 13,000 people across the country. 

David Green.

David Green.

Status: The district court denied the preliminary injunction, but Hobby Lobby appealed to the Tenth Circuit, which denied separate injunctive relief but has not yet decided whether to grant the preliminary injunction. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court for the separate relief, but the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Founder: David Green

Green argues that his religious beliefs support his thousands of employees and their families. “’Our family is now being forced to choose … between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families,’ Green said … during a conference call. ‘We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.'” (The Oklahoman; September 2012)

Green says the foundation of his business is “honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with biblical principles.” “‘The foundation of our business has been, and will continue to be strong values, and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with biblical principles,’ a statement on the Hobby Lobby website reads, adding that one outgrowth of that is the store is closed on Sundays to give its employees a day of rest.” (CNN; January 2013)

6. Sioux Chief Manufacturing

Summary: A Missouri plumbing products company that employs 370 people.

Status: Complaint filed.

Joe Ismert.

Joe Ismert.

CEO: Joe Ismert

The Ismert family alleges that the contraception mandate interferes with their desire to embody the moral teachings of the Catholic Church in their business. “‘The Mandate illegally and unconstitutionally coerces Plaintiffs to violate their sincerely held Catholic beliefs under threat of heavy fines and penalties,’ reads the suit in part. ‘The Mandate also forces Plaintiffs to fund government-dictated speech that is directly at odds with the religious ethics derived from their deeply held religious beliefs and the moral teachings of the Catholic Church that they strive to embody in their business.'” (Christian Post; January 2013)

The Ismerts’ lawyer has called the contraception mandate “unprecedented, unnecessary, and unconstitutional.”  “‘Americans should be free to honor God and live according to their consciences wherever they are,’ said [lawyer Jonathan R.] Whitehead. ‘They have the God-given freedom to live and transact business according to their faith, and the First Amendment has always protected that. Forcing Americans to ignore their faith just to earn a living is unprecedented, unnecessary, and unconstitutional.'” (Christian Post; January 2013)

7. Domino’s Farms

Summary: The Michigan-based property management company owned by Tom Monaghan, the same man who founded Domino’s Pizza. Forty-five full-time and 44 part-time employees work there.

Status: The district court granted a temporary restraining order. Court heard motion preliminary injunction on January 31.

Tom Monaghan.

Tom Monaghan.

Owner: Tom Monaghan

Monaghan’s case refers to contraception as “a grave sin” and likens Plan B to abortion. “The lawsuit, filed in federal court, claims that the new law ‘attacks and desecrates a foremost tenet of the Catholic Church,’ which considers contraception ‘a grave sin.’ It adds that the mandate compels insurance issuers to cover the morning-after pill, ‘despite their known abortifacient mechanisms of action.’” (AOL; December 2012)

Before the ACA rule, Monaghan specifically crafted an insurance plan that did not include contraceptives or sterilization. “Before Obamacare, however, Monaghan had been able to ‘engineer’ an insurance policy through Blue Cross and Blue Shield that had exemptions for contraceptives and sterilization, according to [Thomas More Law Center President and Chief Counsel Richard] Thompson.” (AOL; December 2012)

Monaghan once countered the idea that contraceptive coverage extends equal opportunity to women in the workforce by citing that his lead counsel, Erin Mersino, won their case’s first victory while more than seven months pregnant. “‘The federal government says we need this law so that women have an equal opportunity in the workforce, so they can choose if and when they have children,’ said Thompson. But Mersino managed that legal victory, he points out, while seven-and-a-half months pregnant.” (AOL; December 2012)

8. Autocam Corporation

Summary: A West-Michigan-based company that makes parts for transportation and medical equipment and employs 680 people across the United States. CEO John Kennedy and family are Catholic.

Status: The district court denied preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs appealed to the Sixth Circuit, which denied injunction and motion to reconsider.

John Kennedy.

John Kennedy.

CEO: John Kennedy

Kennedy made this video in association with CatholicVote.org to explain his opposition to the ACA mandate. In it, he likens Plan B and IUDs to abortion. “The Affordable Care Act forces me to pay for things that violate my deeply held beliefs, such as abortion-inducing drugs, and makes it difficult for us to offer these great benefits to our associates. I can’t in good conscience choose between violating my beliefs and meeting my associates’ needs,” he says in the video.

Again, Kennedy has likened Plan B and IUDs to abortion. “‘Why is the Obama administration prioritizing life- ending drugs over lifesaving drugs?’ said Kennedy, who filed the lawsuit with the support of the Catholic Vote Legal Defense Fund and the Thomas More Society of Chicago.” (MLive.com; October 2012)

9. O’Brien Industrial Holdings

Summary: A Missouri company that processes ceramic materials and employs 87 people.

Status: After the district court granted motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs appealed to the Eighth Circuit. Last November, the Eighth Circuit issued a stay pending the appeal, over the dissent of one judge.

Frank R. O'Brien.

Frank R. O’Brien.

Owner: Frank R. O’Brien

The company website says, “Our conduct is guided by the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. We will not discriminate based on anyone’s personal belief system.” Mission: Our mission is to make our labor a pleasing offering to the Lord while enriching our families and society …. Integrity: Our conduct is guided by the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. We will not discriminate based on anyone’s personal belief system …. People: We are an organization that will attract and keep outstanding personnel. Mean spirited behavior will not be tolerated.” (O’Brien Industrial Holdings)

O’Brien’s lawyer has argued that businesses should be governed by moral values, not government. “‘We have argued from the beginning that employers like Frank O’Brien must be able to operate their business in a manner consistent with their moral values, not the values of the government,'” said attorney Francis Manion. (Associated Press; November 2012)

10. American Pulverizer Company

Summary: Owned by founders Paul and Henry Griesedieck, who have controlling interest in four Missouri-based companies involved in the business of wholesale scrap metal recycling. Their companies employ about 150 people.

Status: The district court granted a preliminary injunction in part because of the O’Brien stay precedent.

Paul and Henry Griesedieck.

Paul and Henry Griesedieck.

Founders: Paul and Henry Griesedieck

The Griesediecks have argued that “it would be sinful for us to pay for services that have a significant risk of causing the death of embryonic lives.” “In their lawsuit, the Griesediecks contend that compliance with the Obamacare mandate would force them to violate their religious and moral beliefs. In their lawsuit, the Griesediecks state that ‘it would be sinful for us to pay for services that have a significant risk of causing the death of embryonic lives.’” (Life News; January 2013)

The Griesedieck brothers have likened Plan B to abortion. “The owners, who are Evangelical Christians, contend that the HHS mandate requiring coverage for abortion-inducing drugs—including the ‘morning-after pill’—violates their religious beliefs.” (ACLJ; October 2012)

11. Sharpe Holdings, Inc.

Summary: A Missouri corporation that is involved in the farming, dairy, creamery, and cheese-making industries and employs at least 100 people.

Charles N. Sharpe.

Charles N. Sharpe.

Status: The district court granted a temporary restraining order that’s in effect until the court rules on further injunctive relief.

Founder and CEO: Charles N. Sharpe

Sharpe has likened Plan B and IUDs to abortion. “Rather, the focus of their claims for injunctive relief is the ability of these devices to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the wall of the uterus, thereby leading to the ejection of the fertilized egg from the woman’s body, in other words, the abortion of the live fetus.” (Court files; December 2012)

Sharpe believes that Plan B and IUDs are “abortion on demand.” “In accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs and practices, the individual plaintiffs oppose the use, funding, provision, or support of abortion on demand and believe that the use of Plan B, Ella, and copper IUDs constitutes abortion on demand.” (Court files; December 2012)

12. Annex Medical, Inc.

Summary: Plaintiffs Stuart Lind and Thomas Janas are Minnesota business owners, the former of whom owns and operates Annex Medical and Sacred Heart Medical, companies that design, manufacture, and sell medical devices and employ 16 full-time and two part-time workers. Janas is an entrepreneur who has owned several dairy businesses in the past and intends to purchase another in 2013. He currently operates Habile Holdings and Venture North Properties, companies that lease commercial properties but currently have no employees.

medicalannex

Annex Medical and Sacred Heart Medical, companies that design, manufacture, and sell medical devices and employ 16 full-time and two part-time workers

Status: The district court denied preliminary injunction, but the plaintiffs appealed to the Eighth Circuit in January and got an injunction pending appeal, relying on the O’Brien order.

Owners: Stuart Lind and Thomas Janas

Lind and Janas believe insurance plans covering contraception are “sinful” and “immoral.” “Lind and Janas believe that paying for a group health insurance plan that complies with Defendants’ Mandate is sinful and immoral because it requires them and/or the businesses they control to pay for contraception, sterilization, abortifacient drugs and related education and counseling in violation of their sincere and deeply-held religious beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic Church.” (Court files; November 2012)

Lind and Janas believe that any action intended to prevent procreation is forbidden, whether before, during, or after intercourse. “Plaintiffs Stuart Lind and Tom Janas are devout Catholics who are steadfastly committed to biblical principles and the teachings of the Catholic Church, including the belief that life involves the creative action of God, and is therefore sacred. Lind and Janas therefore believe that any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation is an evil forbidden by God.” (Court files; November 2012)

Lind and Janas have likened Plan B to abortion. “Among the products the Mandate requires Plaintiffs’ group plans to fund are Plan B (the ‘morning after pill’) and Ella (the ‘week after pill’), drugs that are designed to destroy early human life shortly after conception.” (Court files; November 2012)

13. Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc.

Summary: An Illinois-based full-service construction contractor that employs about 90 workers. The Kortes “are adherents of the Catholic faith” and “wish to conduct business in a manner that does not violate their religious faith,” according to the suit.

Status: The district court denied preliminary injunction, but the plaintiffs appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which issued an order granting the emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal over the strong dissent of one judge.

Cyril "Pete" Korte.

Cyril “Pete” Korte.

Owners: Cyril “Pete” Korte and Jane Korte

President: Cyril “Pete” Korte

Secretary: Jane Korte

The majority of the company’s employees choose to take coverage from their unions, rather than the company. “They employ about 90 full-time employees, about 70 of whom belong to and receive health insurance coverage from unions. The other 20 non-union employees receive coverage under a group plan provided by the Kortes’ company, according to their complaint.” (Madison-St. Clair Record; October 2012) 

The Kortes take issue with Plan B, likening it to abortion. “Complying with the mandate would require the Kortes to violate their religious beliefs because it requires them to pay for, provide or otherwise support contraception, sterilization and abortion, the suit states, specifically noting the ‘morning-after pill.’” (Madison-St. Clair Record; October 2012)

14. Triune Health Group

Summary: A secular Illinois corporation that specializes in facilitating the re-entry of injured workers into the workforce. The health group employs 95 people.

Status: The district court granted a preliminary injunction.

Christopher and Mary Anne Yep.

Christopher and Mary Anne Yep.

Founders: Christopher and Mary Anne Yep

The Yeps have likened Plan B to abortion. “The Yeps embrace a belief which is embedded in Triune’s mission statement that each individual be ‘treated with the human dignity and respect that God intended.’ They say the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, administered by HHS and the other federal agencies named in the lawsuit, as well as the Illinois insurance contraceptive mandate, administered by Illinois’ Department of Insurance, require the Triune to provide and pay for abortion-related and contraceptive coverage for its employees and their families.” (Life News; January 2013)

The Yeps have said that the contraceptive mandate imposes a “gravely oppressive burden” on their religious beliefs. “‘The federal and state governments are coercing our clients to violate their conscientious convictions in a fashion that is completely at odds with the resounding declarations of our Founding Fathers and our modern Supreme Court jurisprudence,’ said Samuel B. Casey, Managing Director and General Counsel for the Jubilee Campaign’s Law of Life Project.” (Life News; January 2013)

Ironically, Triune Health Group was recently awarded “Best Workplace for Women” by Crain’s Chicago Business. “In Crain’s survey, Triune employees said it’s not the company’s written policies or benefits that stand out—in fact, some even expressed a desire for more than three weeks’ vacation. But workers seemed to value the flexible approach that management takes with each employee’s needs. For years, the company has posted a 95 percent employee retention rate. Most employees work out of their homes and are given flex-time, part-time and telecommuting options.” (Crain’s Chicago Business; May 2012)

15. Grote Industries

Summary: An Indiana-based privately held manufacturer of vehicle safety systems. The family-owned company has 1,448 full-time employees. The Grote family is Roman Catholic.

William "Bill" Grote.

William “Bill” Grote.

Status: The district court denied a preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which consolidated the case with Korte (#8) and granted Grote Industries a temporary injunction pending appeal, over the strong dissent of one judge.

Owner: William “Bill” Grote

Before the ACA, Grote Industries did not offer contraception in its company health insurance plan, citing the family’s Catholic beliefs. “The [Grotes] are Catholic and claim to operate their business according to the ‘precepts of their faith.’ This includes adhering to the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding ‘the moral wrongfulness of abortifacient drugs, contraception, and sterilization’ and denying their employees contraception coverage in the company’s plan.” (Rewire; February 2013)

16. Weingartz Supply Company

Summary: A secular Michigan company that sells outdoor power equipment and employees 170 people. Owner Daniel Weingartz is Roman Catholic.

Daniel Weingartz.

Daniel Weingartz.

Status: The district court granted a preliminary injunction for plaintiff Daniel Weingartz and Weingartz Supply Company, but not Legatus, a non-profit organization comprising more than 4,000 Catholic business owners and organizations that also got involved with the case. Defendants appealed to the Sixth Circuit in January. The government has filed a cross-appeal.

President: Daniel Weingartz

Weingartz has deliberately excluded contraceptive coverage in his company’s health-care plan. “Mr. Weingartz, a Roman Catholic, said he had devised a health plan that, in keeping with his religious beliefs, excluded coverage of contraceptives.” (New York Times; November 2012) 

 17. Infrastructure Alternatives, Inc.

Dredging.

Dredging.

Summary: A Michigan contractor in the fields of environmental dredging, contaminated sediment remediation, geotextile tube installation, and water treatment operations.

Status: Complaint filed. 

 

 18. Tonn and Blank Construction, LLC

construction

Indiana Construction company launches suit.

Summary: An Indiana construction company. The suit hasn’t gotten any publicity.

Status: Awaiting responses to motion for preliminary injunction, motion to dismiss, and motion to consolidate with Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

 

 

Sign the petition and read about the Birth Control Bosses here: http://ow.ly/iKVko

Sign the petition and read about the Birth Control Bosses here.

See our other coverage of these cases:

Tyndale:
The Sliding Scale of Sin: Tyndale Publishers and Contraception Without a Co-Pay
What’s Next In The Litigation Over The Obamacare Contraception Mandate?

Freshway:
Legal Wrap: Personhood, Statutory Rape, and the Second-Class Legal Status of Women

Conestoga:
Mennonite Business Latest To Challenge Contraception Mandate

Hercules Industries:

Federal Judge In Michigan Rules Against Birth Control Benefit in Favor of Business Owner
Will the Religious Right Succeed? An Examination of the Hercules Ruling on the Birth Control Benefit

Hobby Lobby:
Vajazzling for Jesus: Hobby Lobby Aims a Glue Gun at the Birth Control Benefit

Sotomayor Is Right: Hobby Lobby’s Legal Claims Are Not “Indisputably Clear”

Hobby Lobby Appeals Contraception Ruling

Bush Appointee Rejects Hobby Lobby Arguments Against Birth Control Benefit

In Hobby Lobby Case, Federal Court Weighs Whether Secular Employers Can Exercise Religious Rights

DOJ Makes The Case For Dismissing Hobby Lobby Suit Against Birth Control Benefit

Religious and Activist Groups Petition Hobby Lobby to Stop Birth Control Lawsuit

Domino’s:
Domino’s Pizza Founder Latest To Try And Block Contraception Mandate

Dominos Pizza Founder Wont Have To Comply With Contraception Mandate, Judge Rules 

O’Brien:
The O’Brien Decision: A Gift to the Obama Administration From a Bush Appointee 

Sharpe: Missouri Cheesemaker Wins Temporary Injunction Against ACA Birth Control Benefit

Korte: 7th Circuit Blocks Contraception Mandate, Suggests Expansion of “Religious Liberty” for Corporations

Grote: Latest Seventh Circuit Decision on Birth Control Benefit Paves Another Path To SCOTUS 
Weingartz: Federal Judge In Michigan Rules Against Birth Control Benefit in Favor of Business Owner

 

Commentary Human Rights

The Democratic National Convention Was a Remarkable Victory for Disabled People

s.e. smith

This year's convention included disabled people every evening, as part of a larger inclusive policy that made 2016 a banner year for disability rights activists.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

On Thursday night, Hillary Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Her speech included many of the elements one expects from a nominee, but there were some standout moments—like when she mentioned disability rights, which she did repeatedly.

Clinton integrated disability into her discussion of her record, talking about her work to ensure that disabled children have the right to go to school and bringing up the health-care needs of disabled youth. Her commentary reinforced the fact that she has always cared about disability issues, particularly in the context of children’s rights.

But she did more than that. She referenced shortages of mental health beds. She explicitly called out disability rights as necessary to defend. And at one point, she did not mention disability, which in itself was radical. When she outlined her plans for gun reform and clearly stated that she wanted to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, she referenced people with criminal histories and terrorists, but not mentally ill people, who have been fighting a surge in stigma thanks to perennial (and wildly incorrect) assertions that mental illness causes violence. That omission was clearly deliberate, given the meticulous level of crafting that goes into writing one of the most important speeches of a presidential candidate’s career.

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The nominee’s speech would have been remarkable on its own, but what made it truly outstanding is that it was far from the first appearance of disability at this year’s Democratic National Convention (DNC). The convention included disabled people every evening as part of a larger inclusive policy that made 2016 a banner year for disability rights activists, who are used to being invisible. These kinds of appearances normalized disability, presenting it as a part of some people’s lives and a source of pride, not shame or misery.

On Monday, for example, disability rights activist Anastasia Somoza rolled out to give a sharp, compelling speech that didn’t cast disability in a tragic or exceptional light. She wasn’t the only wheelchair user to appear on the DNC stage—Paralympic athlete Mallory Weggemann led the pledge of allegiance on a different evening. Dynah Haubert, an attorney for Disability Rights Pennsylvania, took the stage on Tuesday. Nor were wheelchair users the only disabled people represented. Ryan Moore, a longtime friend of Clinton’s, spoke about health care and his experiences as a man with spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital syndrome, a form of dwarfism. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy talked about his learning disabilities. Musician Demi Lovato, who has bipolar disorder, took on mental health.

Former Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, a nondisabled man who played an instrumental role in the push to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, taught the crowd sign language during a lively speech about the fight for disability rights on Tuesday, the 26th anniversary of the landmark legislation.

On Wednesday night, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) strode out onto the DNC stage in Philadelphia, smiling and waving at the crowd, to make a few short remarks. “Speaking is difficult for me,” she concluded, “but come January 2017 I want to say these two words: ‘Madam President.'” Her speech was about gun violence—a subject with which she’s intimately familiar after being shot in the head in 2011.

This level of representation is unprecedented. Some speakers, like Somoza, explicitly talked about disability rights, putting the subject in the spotlight in a way it’s never been at previous conventions. Others, like Giffords, came up on stage to talk about something else entirely—and happened to represent disability while they were at it. Similarly, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a decorated combat veteran and double amputee, talked about military policy.

This is a striking contrast from the treatment of disability at previous Democratic National Conventions: When disabled people have appeared, it’s often been in the form of a lackluster performance that objectifies disability, rather than celebrating it, as in 1996 when former actor Christopher Reeve framed disability as a medical tragedy.

Disability rights activists have spent decades fighting for this kind of representation. In 1992, two years after the passage of the ADA, the platform included just three mentions of disability. This year, the subject comes up in 36 instances, woven throughout the platform for an integrated approach to disability as a part of society, rather than as something that needs to be walled off into a tiny section of the platform, tokenized, and then dismissed.

In the intervening years, disabled people in the United States have fought for the enforcement of the ADA, and taken the right to independent living to court in 1999’s Olmsted v. L.C., which was namechecked in the 2000 platform and then forgotten. Disabled people advocated to have their rights in school codified with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004, pushed for inclusion in 2010’s Affordable Care Act, and are fighting to pass the Community Choice Act and Disability Integration Act (DIA). Disability rights in the United States has come a long way since 1990’s infamous Capitol Crawl, in which disability rights activists dragged themselves up the steps of the U.S. Capitol, pleading with Congress to pass the ADA.

And as activists have pushed for progress in the courts and in Congress, disability rights have slowly become more prominent in the Democratic party platform. The ADA has been a consistent theme, appearing in every platform since 1992 alongside brief references to civil rights; historically, however, the focus has been on disability as a medical issue. The 1996 platform introduced Medicare, and health care in general, as issues important to the disability community, a refrain that was reiterated in years to come. In numerous years, Democrats addressed concerns about long-term care, in some cases positioning disabled people as objects of care rather than independent people. Disabled veterans have also played a recurring role in the platform’s discussion of military issues. But beyond these topics—again, often approached from a dehumanizing angle—and the occasional lip service to concerns about discrimination and equal rights, until the 2000s, education was the only really consistent disability issue.

In 2000, however, the Democrats went big, building on eight years under President Bill Clinton, and the influence of his then-first lady. For the first time, disability wasn’t simply lumped under “civil rights.” The platform explicitly called out the need for protection from disability hate crimes, but it also began to introduce the idea that there were other issues of relevance to the disability with a discussion of the digital divide and the obstacles that held disabled people back. Almost 30 years after the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which barred disability discrimination by government agencies and contractors, the Democrats were starting to embrace issues like accessibility and independent living, which also played a prominent role in 2000.

It was a hint that the party was starting to think about disability issues in a serious way, especially when in 2008, the Democrats discussed the shameful delay on ratification of the United Nations’ Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, took on the Community Choice Act, talked about the need to enforce IDEA, and, again for the first time, explicitly addressed voting rights issues. By 2012, they were also calling out discriminatory voter ID laws and their disproportionate effect on the disabled community.

That’s tremendous, though incremental, progress.

And this week, the efforts of a generation of disability rights activists are on display everywhere in Philadelphia, where Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky observed that accessibility is a top priority across the city. The DNC is providing expanded accessible seating, wheelchair charging stations, service dog relief areas, Braille materials, closed captioning, American Sign Language interpreters, medication refrigerators, and more. That’s radical inclusion at work, and the result of incredible efforts by disability rights organizers—including the 400 delegates who disclosed disabilities.

Those same organizers have been hounding the presidential candidates, holding them accountable on disability over and over again. They’ve brought up concerns about independent living, wage disparities, education, access to services, accessibility, hate crimes, reproductive rights, the “marriage penalty” and government benefits, and casual disablism in campaign rhetoric and practices. Advocates leaned on the Clinton campaign until it began captioning its content, for example. RespectAbility sent journalists out on the trail, #CriptheVote organized Twitter, and Rev Up encouraged people to register to vote and get involved. The disability community may be more explicitly politically active this year than ever before, and the DNC has been responding accordingly.

Clearly in consultation with disability rights activists, the Democrats have brought a host of new issues into this year’s platform, acknowledging that disabled people are part of U.S. society. Some of the many issues unique to this year’s platform include: abolition of the subminimum wage, concerns about economic opportunities with an explicitly intersectional discussion of the racial wealth gap, affordable housing, accessibility at the polls, the role of disability in the school-to-prison pipeline, and the need for more accurate Census data.

Notably, in a platform that has loudly called for a Hyde Amendment repeal and pushed for other abortion rights, the Democrats have also reinforced the need for access to reproductive health for disabled people, a revolutionary clause that’s gone virtually unnoticed.

This is a platform—and convention—of aggressive inclusion, and it reflects a victory for disabled people in the United States. It does still lack some components the disability community would like to see, like a shoutout to the DIA, which Clinton supports. This is, however, the start of what looks like a robust and real relationship between the Democrats and the disability rights community.

Analysis Law and Policy

Do Counselors-in-Training Have the Right to Discriminate Against LGBTQ People?

Greg Lipper

Doctors can't treat their patients with leeches; counselors can't impose their beliefs on patients or harm them using discredited methods. Whatever their views, medical professionals have to treat their clients competently.

Whether they’re bakers, florists, or government clerks, those claiming the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people have repeatedly sought to transform professional services into constitutionally protected religious speech. They have grabbed headlines for refusing, for example, to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples or to make cakes for same-sex couples’ weddings-all in the name of “religious freedom.”

A bit more quietly, however, a handful of counseling students at public universities have challenged their schools’ nondiscrimination and treatment requirements governing clinical placements. In some cases, they have sought a constitutional right to withhold treatment from LGBTQ clients; in others, they have argued for the right to directly impose their religious and anti-gay views on their clients.

There has been some state legislative maneuvering on this front: Tennessee, for instance, recently enacted a thinly veiled anti-LGBTQ measure that would allow counselors to deny service on account of their “sincerely held principles.” But when it comes to the federal Constitution, providing medical treatment—whether bypass surgery, root canal, or mental-health counseling—isn’t advocacy (religious or otherwise) protected by the First Amendment. Counselors are medical professionals; they are hired to help their clients, no matter their race, religion, or sexual orientation, and no matter the counselors’ beliefs. The government, moreover, may lawfully prevent counselors from harming their clients, and universities in particular have an interest, recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, in preventing discrimination in school activities and in training their students to work with diverse populations.

The plaintiffs in these cases have nonetheless argued that their schools are unfairly and unconstitutionally targeting them for their religious beliefs. But these students are not being targeted, any more than are business owners who must comply with civil rights laws. Instead, their universities, informed by the rules of the American Counseling Association (ACA)—the leading organization of American professional counselors—merely ask that all students learn to treat diverse populations and to do so in accordance with the standard of care. These plaintiffs, as a result, have yet to win a constitutional right to discriminate against or impose anti-LGBTQ views on actual or prospective clients. But cases persist, and the possibility of conflicting court decisions looms.

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Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley

The first major challenge to university counseling requirements came from Jennifer Keeton, who hoped to receive a master’s degree in school counseling from Augusta State University. As detailed in the 2011 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision considering her case, Keeton entered her professional training believing that (1) “sexual behavior is the result of personal choice for which individuals are accountable, not inevitable deterministic forces”; (2) “gender is fixed and binary (i.e., male or female), not a social construct or personal choice subject to individual change”; and “homosexuality is a ‘lifestyle,’ not a ‘state of being.'”

It wasn’t those views alone, however, that sunk her educational plans. The problem, rather, was that Keeton wanted to impose her views on her patients. Keeton had told both her classmates and professors about her clinical approach at a university-run clinic, and it wasn’t pretty:

  • She would try to change the sexual orientation of gay clients;
  • If she were counseling a sophomore student in crisis questioning his sexual orientation, she would respond by telling the student that it was not OK to be gay.
  • If a client disclosed that he was gay, she would tell him that his behavior was wrong and try to change it; if she were unsuccessful, she would refer the client to someone who practices “conversion therapy.”

Unsurprisingly, Keeton also told school officials that it would be difficult for her to work with LGBTQ clients.

Keeton’s approach to counseling not only would have flouted the university’s curricular guidelines, but also would have violated the ACA’s Code of Ethics.

Her conduct would have harmed her patients as well. As a school counselor, Keeton would inevitably have to counsel LGBTQ clients: 57 percent of LGBTQ students have sought help from a school professional and 42 percent have sought help from a school counselor. Suicide is the leading cause of death for LGBTQ adolescents; that’s twice or three times the suicide rate afflicting their heterosexual counterparts. And Keeton’s preferred approach to counseling LGBTQ students would harm them: LGBTQ students rejected by trusted authority figures are even more likely to attempt suicide, and anti-gay “conversion therapy” at best doesn’t work and at worst harms patients too.

Seeking to protect the university’s clinical patients and train her to be a licensed mental health professional, university officials asked Keeton to complete a remediation plan before she counseled students in her required clinical practicum. She refused; the university expelled her. In response, the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom sued on her behalf, claiming that the university violated her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.

The courts disagreed. The trial court ruled against Keeton, and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit unanimously upheld the trial court’s ruling. The 11th Circuit explained that Keeton was expelled not because of her religious beliefs, but rather because of her “own statements that she intended to impose her personal religious beliefs on clients and refer clients to conversion therapy, and her own admissions that it would be difficult for her to work with the GLBTQ population and separate her own views from those of the client.” It was Keeton, not the university, who could not separate her personal beliefs from the professional counseling that she provided: “[F]ar from compelling Keeton to profess a belief or change her own beliefs about the morality of homosexuality, [the university] instructs her not to express her personal beliefs regarding the client’s moral values.”

Keeton, in other words, crossed the line between beliefs and conduct. She may believe whatever she likes, but she may not ignore academic and professional requirements designed to protect her clients—especially when serving clients at a university-run clinic.

As the court explained, the First Amendment would not prohibit a medical school from requiring students to perform blood transfusions in their clinical placements, nor would it prohibit a law school from requiring extra ethics training for a student who “expressed an intent to indiscriminately disclose her client’s secrets or violate another of the state bar’s rules.” Doctors can’t treat their patients with leeches; counselors can’t impose their beliefs on patients or harm them using discredited methods. Whatever their views, medical professionals have to treat their clients competently.

Ward v. Polite

The Alliance Defending Freedom’s follow-up case, Ward v. Polite, sought to give counseling students the right to withhold service from LGBTQ patients and also to practice anti-gay “conversion therapy” on those patients. The case’s facts were a bit murkier, and this led the appeals court to send it to trial; as a result, the student ultimately extracted only a modest settlement from the university. But as in Keeton’s case, the court rejected in a 2012 decision the attempt to give counseling students the right to impose their religious views on their clients.

Julea Ward studied counseling at Eastern Michigan University; like Keeton, she was training to be a school counselor. When she reviewed the file for her third client in the required clinical practicum, she realized that he was seeking counseling about a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex. As the Court of Appeals recounted, Ward did not want to counsel the client about this topic, and asked her faculty supervisor “(1) whether she should meet with the client and refer him [to a different counselor] only if it became necessary—only if the counseling session required Ward to affirm the client’s same-sex relationship—or (2) whether the school should reassign the client from the outset.” Although her supervisor reassigned the client, it was the first time in 20 years that one of her students had made such a request. So Ward’s supervisor scheduled a meeting with her.

Then things went off the rails. Ward, explained the court, “reiterated her religious objection to affirming same-sex relationships.” She told university officials that while she had “no problem counseling gay and lesbian clients,” she would counsel them only if “the university did not require her to affirm their sexual orientation.” She also refused to counsel “heterosexual clients about extra-marital sex and adultery in a values-affirming way.” As for the professional rules governing counselors, Ward said, “who’s the [American Counseling Association] to tell me what to do. I answer to a higher power and I’m not selling out God.”

All this led the university to expel Ward, and she sued. She claimed that the university violated her free speech and free exercise rights, and that she had a constitutional right to withhold affirming therapy relating to any same-sex relationships or different-sex relationships outside of marriage. Like Keeton, Ward also argued that the First Amendment prohibited the university from requiring “gay-affirmative therapy” while prohibiting “reparative therapy.” After factual discovery, the trial court dismissed her case.

On appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Ward eked out a narrow and temporary win: The court held that the case should go to a jury. Because the university did not have a written policy prohibiting referrals, and based on a few troubling faculty statements during Ward’s review, the court ruled that a reasonable jury could potentially find that the university invoked a no-referrals policy “as a pretext for punishing Ward’s religious views and speech.” At the same time, the court recognized that a jury could view the facts less favorably to Ward and rule for the university.

And although the decision appeared to sympathize with Ward’s desire to withhold service from certain types of clients, the court flatly rejected Ward’s sweeping arguments that she had the right to stray from the school curriculum, refuse to counsel LGBTQ clients, or practice anti-gay “conversion therapy.” For one, it said, “Curriculum choices are a form of school speech, giving schools considerable flexibility in designing courses and policies and in enforcing them so long as they amount to reasonable means of furthering legitimate educational ends.” Thus, the problem was “not the adoption of this anti-discrimination policy, the existence of the practicum class or even the values-affirming message the school wants students to understand and practice.” On the contrary, the court emphasized “the [legal] latitude educational institutions—at any level—must have to further legitimate curricular objectives.”

Indeed, the university had good reason to require counseling students—especially those studying to be school counselors—to treat diverse populations. A school counselor who refuses to counsel anyone with regard to nonmarital, nonheterosexual relationships will struggle to find clients: Nearly four in five Americans have had sex by age 21; more than half have done so by the time they turn 18, while only 6 percent of women and 2 percent of men are married by that age.

In any event, withholding service from entire classes of people violates professional ethical rules even for nonschool counselors. Although the ACA permits client referrals in certain circumstances, the agency’s brief in Ward’s case emphasized that counselors may not refuse to treat entire groups. Ward, in sum, “violated the ACA Code of Ethics by refusing to counsel clients who may wish to discuss homosexual relationships, as well as others who fail to comport with her religious teachings, e.g., persons who engage in ‘fornication.'”

But Ward’s approach would have been unethical even if, in theory, she were permitted to withhold service from each and every client seeking counseling related to nonmarital sex (or even marital sex by same-sex couples). Because in many cases, the need for referral would arise well into the counseling relationship. And as the trial court explained, “a client may seek counseling for depression, or issues with their parents, and end up discussing a homosexual relationship.” No matter what the reason, mid-counseling referrals harm clients, and such referrals are even more harmful if they happen because the counselor disapproves of the client.

Fortunately, Ward did not win the sweeping right to harm her clients or otherwise upend professional counseling standards. Rather, the court explained that “the even-handed enforcement of a neutral policy”—such as the ACA’s ethical rules—”is likely to steer clear of the First Amendment’s free-speech and free-exercise protections.” (Full disclosure: I worked on an amicus brief in support of the university when at Americans United.)

Ward’s lawyers pretended that she won the case, but she ended up settling it for relatively little. She received only $75,000; and although the expulsion was removed from her record, she was not reinstated. Without a graduate counseling degree, she cannot become a licensed counselor.

Cash v. Hofherr

The latest anti-gay counseling salvo comes from Andrew Cash, whose April 2016 lawsuit against Missouri State University attempts to rely on yet murkier facts and could wind up, on appeal, in front of the more conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. In addition to his range of constitutional claims (freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, equal protection of law), he has added a claim under the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The complaint describes Cash as “a Christian with sincerely-held beliefs”—as opposed to insincere ones, apparently—”on issues of morality.” Cash started his graduate counseling program at Missouri State University in September 2007. The program requires a clinical internship, which includes 240 hours of in-person client contact. Cash decided to do his clinical internship at Springfield Marriage and Family Institute, which appeared on the counseling department’s list of approved sites. Far from holding anti-Christian bias, Cash’s instructor agreed that his proposed class presentation on “Christian counseling and its unique approach and value to the Counseling profession” was an “excellent” idea.

But the presentation itself revealed that Cash intended to discriminate against LGBTQ patients. In response to a question during the presentation, the head of the Marriage and Family Institute stated that “he would counsel gay persons as individuals, but not as couples, because of his religious beliefs,” and that he would “refer the couple for counseling to other counselors he knew who did not share his religious views.” Because discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates ACA guidelines, the university determined that Cash should not continue counseling at the Marriage and Family Institute and that it would be removed from the approved list of placements. Cash suggested, however, that he should be able to withhold treatment from same-sex couples.

All this took place in 2011. The complaint (both the original and amended versions) evades precisely what happened between 2012 and 2014, when Cash was finally expelled. You get the sense that Cash’s lawyers at the Thomas More Society are trying to yadda-yadda-yadda the most important facts of the case.

In any event, the complaint does acknowledge that when Cash applied for a new internship, he both ignored the university’s instructions that the previous hours were not supposed to count toward his requirement, and appeared to be “still very much defend[ing] his previous internship stating that there was nothing wrong with it”—thus suggesting that he would continue to refuse to counsel same-sex couples. He continued to defend his position in later meetings with school officials; by November 2014, the university removed him from the program.

Yet in challenging this expulsion, Cash’s complaint says that he was merely “expressing his Christian worldview regarding a hypothetical situation concerning whether he would provide counseling services to a gay/homosexual couple.”

That’s more than just a worldview, though. It also reflects his intent to discriminate against a class of people—in a manner that violates his program’s requirements and the ACA guidelines. Whether hypothetically or otherwise, Cash stated and reiterated that he would withhold treatment from same-sex couples. A law student who stated, as part of his clinic, that he would refuse to represent Christian clients would be announcing his intent to violate the rules of professional responsibility, and the law school could and would remove him from the school’s legal clinic. And they could and would do so even if a Christian client had yet to walk in the door.

But maybe this was just a big misunderstanding, and Cash would, in practice, be willing and able to counsel same-sex couples? Not so, said Cash’s lawyer from the Thomas More Society, speaking about the case to Christian news outlet WORLD: “I think Christians have to go on the offensive, or it’s going to be a situation like Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible, where you aren’t safe to have a guest in your home, with the demands of the gay mob.” Yikes.

Although Cash seems to want a maximalist decision allowing counselors and counseling students to withhold service from LGBTQ couples, it remains to be seen how the case will turn out. The complaint appears to elide two years’ worth of key facts in order to present Cash’s claims as sympathetically as possible; even if the trial court were to rule in favor of the university after more factual development, Cash would have the opportunity to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, one of the country’s most conservative federal appeals courts.

More generally, we’re still early in the legal battles over attempts to use religious freedom rights as grounds to discriminate; only a few courts across the country have weighed in. So no matter how extreme Cash or his lawyers may seem, it’s too early to count them out.

* * *

The cases brought by Keeton, Ward, and Cash not only attempt to undermine anti-discrimination policies. They also seek to change the nature of the counselor-client relationship. Current norms provide that a counselor is a professional who provides a service to a client. But the plaintiffs in these cases seem to think that counseling a patient is no different than lecturing a passerby in the town square, in that counseling a patient necessarily involves expressing the counselor’s personal and religious beliefs. Courts have thus far rejected these attempts to redefine the counselor-patient relationship, just as they have turned away attempts to challenge bans on “reparative therapy.”

The principles underlying the courts’ decisions protect more than just LGBTQ clients. As the 11th Circuit explained in Keeton, the university trains students to “be competent to work with all populations, and that all students not impose their personal religious values on their clients, whether, for instance, they believe that persons ought to be Christians rather than Muslims, Jews or atheists, or that homosexuality is moral or immoral.” Licensed professionals are supposed to help their clients, not treat them as prospective converts.