Jessica M. Karmasek Oct. 16, 2013, 2:00pm

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- The CEO of a Michigan-based company is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect his family's religious freedom and overturn a federal appeals court's decision requiring the company to provide contraceptive drugs to its employees.

John Kennedy, CEO of Autocam, an international company with 700 U.S.-based employees, filed a petition Tuesday with the nation's high court asking justices to review his case and protect his family's religious freedom in regards to the contraceptive mandate.

Like Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., the Oklahoma-based arts and crafts retailer, Kennedy argues that the mandate is forcing him to violate his faith under threat of millions of dollars in fines.

Under the federal health care law, for-profit corporations cannot deny their employees the health coverage of contraceptives.

In Kennedy's case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not protect the company's efforts to conduct business according to their faith.

"The (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) mandate is forcing me and my family to choose between practicing our religion, losing our family business or stripping our employees of benefits they need," Kennedy said in a statement Tuesday.

"The Sixth Circuit said our faith has nothing to do with running the business. But our faith is why we work very hard to treat our employees well.

"I cannot understand why the Sixth Circuit refused to protect our efforts to live our faith when running our business."

Kennedy is a strict Catholic and follows the Catholic faith in operating his business. The company does not cover abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptive drugs or devices because doing so would violate the Kennedy family's religious beliefs.

However, as of Jan. 1, the mandate forces the company to provide access to those drugs, devices and procedures -- or pay $19 million in fines.

In his petition for writ of certiorari, Kennedy called the fines "crippling."

"The bottom line of the Sixth Circuit's opinion is that religious liberty means nothing more than a right to pray within the four walls of a church," said Patrick Gillen, lead counsel.

"The idea seems to be that religious believers should check their faith at the door on their way out of church. That is a truly hollow view of religious liberty that is at odds with the finest traditions of our nation."

Kennedy is represented by the Legal Defense Fund and the Thomas More Society in Chicago.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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