Dunn takes side in contraception case; can companies exercise religion?

02/17/2014 5:13 PM

02/18/2014 7:34 PM

Owners of the J.E. Dunn Co. seem to want to have it both ways.

As reported in The Star on Sunday, the company is taking a religious stand against one aspect of the Affordable Care Act, but expresses no moral quandary over accepting federal dollars involving another divisive issue.

The huge, Kansas City-based construction company has filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Hobby Lobby, the retail chain fighting an Obamacare mandate that companies provide insurance to their employees covering contraception, including abortifacients, or the so-called morning-after pill.

The Dunn family adheres to a long and strong Catholic heritage. So delivering insurance coverage for abortifacients to their employees is troubling, says Steve Dunn, the Dunn Co. chairman. Yet the company does provide coverage for other birth control procedures, which the Catholic Church prohibits.

But the real problem here is that the company — the Dunn family owns 90 percent of it — is trying to make a religious decision for all of its employees. The Affordable Care Act does not mandate the use of abortifacients, but it makes them available for women who might need those pills. The concept is called a woman’s right to choose.

The Dunn company’s hypocrisy is highlighted by its position as general contractor for a nuclear weapons parts plant recently built in Jackson County. The Catholic Church has had a longstanding opposition to nuclear weapons.

Dunn’s argument to the court rests on whether the free exercise clause of the First Amendment extends to for-profit and/or closely held businesses. The administration argues that while company owners might have their private religious beliefs, their corporations are not individuals and cannot discriminate against company employees with different beliefs.

We believe the administration is correct. And attempts at climbing on a moral high horse clearly can trip one up.


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