Businesswoman keeps faith amid threats to religious freedom

By Michelle Bauman

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Mary Anne Yep, co-founder and VP of TRIUNE Health Group.

Facing challenges to religious freedom has helped one Catholic businesswoman grow in her convictions as she works to puts her principles into practice.

“It has clarified and intensified so much of what we do on a day-to-day basis,” said Mary Anne Yep, co-founder and vice president of Triune Health Group.
 
In a Jan. 9 interview with EWTN News, she explained that she was relieved and “filled with gratitude” to receive an initial court ruling protecting her company from the demands of the federal contraception mandate.

Yep helped found Triune Health Group in 1990, along with her husband, Christopher, who is the company’s president and CEO.
 
The couple is among the dozens of plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits challenging insurance requirements that force them to violate their religious beliefs in their business practices.

A new federal mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception – including drugs that can cause early abortions – and sterilization.

Triune had inadvertently been covering these objectionable products and procedures when national debate over the mandate led to an examination of the company’s policy. The Yeps discovered the oversight and are now seeking to ensure that they can run their business according to their Catholic faith.
 
They are also challenging a similar state mandate in Illinois that was put in place several years ago.

“For us, this battle has been going on for a long time,” Yep said.

At the last minute, Triune was granted an injunction from a federal court blocking the mandate while the lawsuit progresses.

Yep finds hope in the ruling, and she is encouraged by the fact that the majority of other for-profit employers – 10 out of 14 so far – also received injunctions blocking the mandate.

These rulings show that the courts are “doing their duty to protect the rights of Americans,” she explained.

But while she is grateful to have obtained at least temporary relief from the mandate, Yep is also frustrated that the lawsuit was necessary at all.

“What right do they have to do this, to take away our freedoms?” she asked.

Yep also said that she is tired of hearing opposition to the mandate being described as a “war on women.”

“It gets old after a while,” she added.

Several months ago, an anonymous employee survey resulted in Triune being named the Best Place to Work for Women in the Chicago metro area by Crain’s Chicago Business.

As a woman, Yep said that she does not lack compassion, but instead can see that the real issue is religious liberty. She explained that the constitution protects her right to free exercise of religion, which includes living out her faith in public life, not merely at home or church.

The Yeps have said that they see their business as “a form of religious stewardship” and believe that they are obligated to operate it according to their Catholic faith.

Shortly after filing the lawsuit, Yep stated that she strives to live as an “integrated person” and cannot separate her identity as a woman, a business owner and a Catholic. She said that she strives to put her values into practice in all areas of her public and private life.

While the preliminary injunction will block enforcement of the mandate temporarily, the company must now win a battle in the courts in order to win permanent relief.

Yep observed that on the whole, Triune has had support from people in the community, who “see that we’re fighting for their religious liberty as well.” This is also true of the company’s employees, who can “see what is at stake,” she added.

“We have an American flag in our lobby,” she said. “They know what we stand for.”

Furthermore, Yep explained that the ongoing battle for religious freedom has changed her perspective as she continues to run her business as a Catholic. 

She pointed to the manger scene that Triune displays in the foyer during the Christmas season and the religious cards that the company sends out.

“All of a sudden, it was not just a casual thing anymore,” she said, describing the heightened sense of conviction.

“We don’t take anything for granted anymore,” she explained.

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