Company at center of mandate suit honored despite City of Denver slight

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Andy Newland speaking with truck driver. Credit: ADF.

The Colorado House of Representatives has extended its congratulations on the 50th anniversary of a Catholic-owned company that is engaged in a legal battle with the Obama administration after the city and county of Denver rescinded a similar honor.

“Hercules Industries is a responsible and respected employer of a diverse workforce,” the Aug. 16 House commendation stated, “and the company’s care of its employees is evidenced by its generous employee health care coverage and apprenticeship program.”

The city and county of Denver had previously proposed and drafted a proclamation marking the 50th anniversary of Hercules Industries, a Colorado-based manufacturer of heating, ventilation and air conditioning units.

A draft of the proclamation recognized the company and thanked it for its commitment to its employees, contributions to the community and preservation of the historic building out of which it operates. The building played an important role as a cotton mill in setting the stage for Colorado’s first Child Labor Act.

However, the city rescinded the proclamation before it was finalized, after Hercules Industries and its owners – the Newland family – were granted a preliminary injunction against the controversial federal contraception mandate. 

The Newlands, who are practicing Catholics, are involved in a lawsuit challenging the mandate, which the Obama administration has issued to require employers around the country to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and early-abortion drugs.

The Newlands argue the mandate violates their religious freedom by requiring them to act against their firmly-held religious convictions.

While certain religious organizations have been given a one-year “safe harbor” from the mandate, Hercules Industries did not qualify for the reprieve. The self-insured company would have been subject to the mandate when its health plan renews on Nov. 1.

On July 27, a federal judge granted an injunction, temporarily blocking the enforcement of the mandate against Hercules Industries.

Denver subsequently canceled its plans to officially issue the proclamation honoring the company.

In response to the city’s decision, Colorado Speaker of the House Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) issued a commendation from the Colorado House of Representatives on Aug. 16 honoring Hercules Industries for the same achievements as the canceled proclamation listed.

The commendation congratulated the company on “50 years of exemplary business practices.”

It recognized that Hercules Industries has “restored and preserved” its historic workplace and “has contributed to Denver’s Industrial base for 50 years, employing over 200 people.”

It also acknowledged that the company was awarded the 2012 MLK Business Social Responsibility Award “in recognition of its assistance in a variety of worthy community causes.”

“The Colorado House of Representatives is pleased to honor the Newland family for their continued commitment to their employees, community and historic preservation,” the commendation said.

Matt Bowman, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Hercules Industries in its lawsuit against the mandate, expressed disappointment that the original proclamation had been rescinded.

“It’s sad when the very values that drive a family to serve others are used to try to disgrace them,” he said.

Bowman explained that while the city council “saw this family’s contributions,” it refused to honor them because the company “took a principled stand for freedom of religion and conscience.”

“That stand makes the Newlands more worthy of respect, not less so,” he said.

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