GOP Rep Takes on Obamacare at State Level
ST. LOUIS (CN) - A Republican state representative sued three federal Cabinet departments, claiming that being forced to pay for contraception under Obamacare violates his religious freedom.
Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, and his wife Teresa sued the Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor, in Federal Court.
Wieland demands the right to opt out of coverage, even if his employer does not have an exemption.
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted 40 times to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 aka Obamacare. Several religiously affiliated groups, such as Catholic hospitals, and profit-seeking businesses that claims to have a religious basis, have sought exemptions, with varying success. Wieland is serving his third term in Missouri's lower house.
"This case challenges regulations issued under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 ('Act') that force the plaintiffs to either (a) violate their sincerely held religious opposition to contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients by paying to make such services available to their three daughters, (b) forfeit the valuable benefit of employer sponsored health insurance for themselves and their daughters and purchase more expensive satisfactory coverage on the open market, if such coverage even exists, or (c) forgo health insurance for their daughters altogether," the complaint states. "The Act also unconstitutionally interferes with the plaintiffs' parental rights and fundamental right to family integrity."
The Wielands have three daughters, 19, 18 and 12. Wieland claims that he and his wife "strive to raise their daughters according to Christian principles and corresponding sincerely held religious beliefs. As part of these beliefs, the plaintiffs oppose the use, funding, provision or support of contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients."
Wieland claims that health care coverage is a benefit of his state employment. Between January 2011 and Aug. 1, 2013 the plan did not include contraception coverage, but Wieland says he received a letter from his insurer in July stating that because of the Obamacare mandate, the insurer must provide such coverage in all of its plans.
"Plaintiffs' premiums increased in conjunction with and because of the addition of contraception and sterilization coverage," the complaint states.
"The plaintiffs do not believe that contraceptives, sterilization, or abortifacients
constitute medicine, health care, or a means of providing for the well being of persons. Rather, plaintiffs believe contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients involve gravely immoral practices and that abortion in particular involves the intentional destruction of innocent human life."
The Wielands claim the mandate forces them to help pay for devices and drugs designed to destroy fertilized eggs, which they consider an abortion.
"The mandate unconstitutionally forces the plaintiffs to violate their sincerely held
religious beliefs under threat of having to forfeit the valuable job benefit of employer-sponsored insurance coverage or health coverage for themselves and their daughters," the complaint states. "The mandate also forces the plaintiffs to fund government-dictated speech that is directly at odds with their own speech and religious beliefs and practices. The government forcing the plaintiffs to pay money for the privilege of practicing their religion or controlling their own speech is un-American, unprecedented, and flagrantly unconstitutional. The mandate also unconstitutionally interferes with plaintiffs' parental rights and fundamental right to family integrity.
"The defendants' refusal to accommodate conscience is selective. A patchwork of exemptions shows that defendants do not believe every insurance plan in the country needs to cover these services. For instance, defendants have issued thousands of waivers from the Act (in its entirety) for many large corporations and labor unions, purely for reasons of commercial or political convenience. Other exemptions have been awarded based on how old a plan is, or how large an employer is. There are several other exemptions from the Act and from the mandate, for a variety of groups and for a variety of reasons, including exemptions for certain religious employers. There is, however, no way for individual employees to opt out of coverage based upon their sincerely held religious beliefs regarding contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients."
The Wielands seek declaratory judgment that the contraceptive mandate violates the Religious Freedoms Act, the First and Fifth Amendment and the Administrative Procedure Act, and an injunction prohibiting the defendants from enforcing the mandate on them.
They are represented by Timothy Belz with of Ottsen, Leggat and Belz.
Paul Wieland owns and operates the Wieland Insurance Group, according to the biography on his state web page.
He represents a large portion of Jefferson County, which is immediately south of St. Louis. He is a member of several state House committees, Insurance Policy, Economic Development and Downsizing State Government.