- - Thursday, August 30, 2012

The response of Denver city officials to news that my family’s company, Hercules Industries, had filed a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s abortion-pill mandate brings to mind that bumper sticker we see so often — the one that reads, “Practice random acts of kindness.”

“Random acts of kindness” are richly appreciated in today’s business culture and, indeed, across the public square. If you do something nice because — well, just because — people will love you for it. More than that, they’ll reward you for it.

Just a few weeks ago, the Denver City Council was preparing a public proclamation saluting Hercules, a national HVAC manufacturing company, for 50 years of service to the community. Many of our employees, upon hearing of the proclamation, were very proud and excited that their company was being honored. In particular, the city wanted to honor us for our successful restoration of a historic building on our property, for raising donations for victims and fighters of the recent wildfires across Colorado and for providing compassionate care for our diverse workforce, as evidenced, the city said, by our “generous employee health care coverage and apprenticeship program.”

A few days before the presentation was to be made, the council changed its mind. Some of its members had learned of the court order we had won in our family’s lawsuit — and realized that our “acts of kindness” were not random but stemmed from a clear, deeply cherished and unwavering worldview.

We were saddened about the reasons behind Denver’s decision, but we do not hold it against the council members. It’s their decision.

We want them and everyone else who hears us to know that our worldview is not something that we wear just for church. It informs all of our decisions, as individuals and as business leaders. It teaches us to be good stewards of the resources around us, which is why we made good use of a historic building. It encourages us to help people in need, which is why we reached out to the fire victims. It inspires us to treat the people around us — especially those who work with and for us — with fairness and grace.

Along with all of that, it underscores within us a holy appreciation for the sanctity of life — a conviction so strong that we have chosen not to supply insurance coverage for the costs of “morning after” abortion pills, contraceptives and sterilization procedures.

As written, the Obama administration’s health care mandate requires us to provide insurance that covers the costs of abortion drugs and procedures for our employees — even if doing so explicitly violates our strongest religious convictions. Such convictions, Department of Justice attorneys have told us, are forfeit once a person starts a private company. Religious freedom, apparently, is restricted to those who don’t provide a product for profit.

With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, we asked for an injunction that would block enforcement of the mandate while our lawsuit proceeds. A federal judge granted that injunction — the first legal victory of its kind against the abortion-pill mandate — and it was at that point, interestingly, that Denver city officials decided a proclamation honoring our company was no longer in order.

I say “interestingly” because, obviously, nothing about Hercules has changed since the city first decided to honor us. We’re still creating jobs and tax revenue for the people of our community, still reinvesting our earnings back into the business to provide capital for future growth opportunities, still treating our people and properties with respect, and still providing what the Mountain States Employers Council has called one of the best health care plans in our region. We treasure religious freedom no more or less than we have for the past 50 years — only now, because of the injunction, that commitment is known across the country.

To our mind, it’s not Hercules from which the Denver City Council is distancing itself, but religious freedom. Our “acts of kindness,” it seems, are only worth celebrating if we separate them from our faith. Our faith is only honorable if we’re willing to set it aside when it’s inconvenient — and if our God will take orders from the government.

We thank Colorado Speaker of the House Frank McNulty for his kind act of issuing Hercules Industries a commendation recently when Denver would not. We’re not in this for commendations, but we’re always grateful and humbled when they’re offered.

Should the good leaders of Denver rethink their assumptions, we would be honored and humbled to receive a proclamation from them as well. But that’s up to them. In the meantime, we’ll just continue running our business as we always have — in a way they once thought worth celebrating. It’s the way we think is right.

Andy Newland is president-elect of Hercules Industries.

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