WASHINGTON — A Baptist small business owner whose ancestors fought religious persecution as founding Americans has filed the 50th lawsuit challenging the federal contraception mandate.
The Thomas More Law Center, which is handling the case, said that Thomas Beckwith’s ancestors endured “the hardships of a storm-tossed ocean voyage,” coming to America “in 1626 to escape religious persecution from England.”
“One hundred and fifty years later, one of his ancestors, as a member of the Connecticut militia, fought against the tyrannical British king in the Revolutionary War,” the organization said.
Now, it said, Beckwith and his family-owned electric company are filing a legal challenge to a federal mandate that constitutes “a new form of tyranny and religious persecution.”
Beckwith is the owner of Beckwith Electric, founded as a family business in 1967. The company, which has 168 full-time employees, produces micro-processor-based technology for power system generators, powers lines and transformers. The company also offers energy-saving and voltage-reduction strategies.
Beckwith has now filed the 50th religious-freedom lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s contraception mandate. Issued under the authority of the Affordable Care Act, the mandate requires employers to offer health-insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.
A Southern Baptist, Beckwith believes that life begins at conception, and his religious convictions prevent him from offering or in any way participating in the provision of abortion or emergency contraception, which can end the life of a newly conceived human embryo.
If Beckwith does not comply with the mandate, he could face over $6 million in fines per year.
The Southern Baptist Convention strongly opposes the federal requirement, saying that it is “a blatant assault on faith.” The convention’s declaration against the mandate adds that “the Bible is clear about the sanctity of human life,” which is threatened by some of the mandated drugs that can cause early abortions.
According to the Thomas More Law Center, Beckwith lives his faith in both his personal life and his work, striving to “lead the company under God’s direction and by God’s principles” and offering a full range of generous employee benefits, including health, dental, vision and life insurance, profit sharing, educational and travel assistance, paid time off and gym memberships.
The company also provides spiritual support for employees facing the death of a loved one, family problems or other crises. According to the Thomas More Law Center, chaplains are a visible figure within Beckwith’s company, visiting the organization “on a weekly basis to build caring relationships with the employees.”
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, said that, through the mandate, the government has “declared war on people of faith.”
“This is a case about religious freedom,” said the lawsuit, which was filed March 12 in a federal court in Florida.
It quoted the third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father and author of the Declaration of Independence, who said, “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”