Aleteia

Heroes of Religious Liberty

Triune Health Group
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Dispatches from the “Church of Happy Moments.”

We have written before about the West’s new official religion: utilitarian hedonism, which we call the “Church of Happy Moments” because its creed is clear, upbeat, and simple. It teaches that human life amounts to only this: “Suffering is worse than being happy, and being alive is better than being dead — except if it means that you will suffer.”

And this new church is not a tolerant one. Just at the moment when we most need the free agents of civil society to adhere to a higher vision of the human person, the agencies of government are restricting their freedom to do so. “Common Core” requirements are impinging on the liberty of parochial schools to set their own curricula. Discrimination lawsuits are punishing business owners who decline to cooperate with a new, state-imposed version of marriage. Increasing tax burdens made necessary by massive government deficits dry up the resources for private charity.

But worst of all, direct mandates that are not even conditioned on accepting government funding are being directed at private businesses and church-run agencies in the form of the Health and Human Services requirement that virtually all employers provide insurance coverage that pays for both contraceptives and drugs that induce abortions. This mandate came as no surprise to to small-government advocates, who warned that when one-sixth of a nation’s economy comes under the direct control of the federal government, subsidiarity must suffer. 

A courageous group of religious institutions have initiated lawsuits to defend their freedom of action against this mandate, as have some private businesses. We would like to highlight one of these small businesses as heroes of subsidiarity: a family-owned firm that has risked everything in defense of its owners’ freedom of conscience.

Mary Anne and Christopher Yep are the proprietors of Chicago-based Triune Health Group, which they founded in 1990, and which employs almost a hundred full-time workers. As Crain’s Chicago Business reported, “The couple raised eight children and simultaneously built their business, starting from the basement of their home.”

In 2012, the Yeps were informed along with thousands of other business owners that they would have to provide medical insurance that covered contraception, sterilization, and the abortifacient “morning-after pill.” With their own limited resources, they decided to sue the federal government. The Yeps were able to attract support from other institutions of civil society, the Thomas More Society, Kevin Edward White and Associates, and the Jubilee Campaign’s Law of Life Project, which offered legal expertise.

“My stance on this issue is that we’re fighting for religious liberty for men and women,” Mary Anne told the National Catholic Register. “And that’s what was guaranteed to me as a woman in the Constitution,” she said. It is worth pointing out that Triune Health Care was voted in 2012 one of Chicago’s “best workplaces for women.” In their legal complaint, the Yeps request relief:
 

from grave and ongoing infringement of their fundamental constitutional rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the corresponding provisions of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, as well as their statutory rights arising under other provisions of federal and Illinois law, to engage in the free and robust exercise of their religious beliefs, in strict and faithful adherence to the deepest dictates of their private conscience as well as their publicly professed religious beliefs and the religious dimension of their corporate mission…

 
In particular, plaintiffs deem it abhorrent and evil that they find themselves now doubly mandated — by federal and Illinois law alike — to provide other human beings, their cherished employees, with drugs and services relating to abortifacients, sterilization, and artificial reproductive and contraceptive technologies, which are inimical to their health and well-being, as well as being fundamentally at odds with plaintiffs’ religious faith and corporate mission…