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Hastings business owner files lawsuit against government

A Hastings business owner filed a federal lawsuit earlier this week against the government, saying that portions of the Affordable Care Act violate his religious beliefs.

Doug Erickson, who owns the Hastings Ford and Hastings Chrysler car dealerships, said the government is asking him to fund morning-after pills as part of the ACA. Since Erickson believes that life begins at conception and those pills make a uterus inhospitable to human life, he can’t support them, he said.

“The government is asking us to do something that is against my religious beliefs,” he said. “It’s against the first amendment freedom to do business according to the convictions of my faith.”

The lawsuit was prepared by the Liberty Institute, which is based in Dallas. The suit seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop this portion of the act from being mandatory.

“Doug believes all human life is worthy of protection,” said Jeremiah Dys, a lawyer with the Liberty Institute. “The government is saying, ‘No, we believe something differently’ and they’re telling him, ‘You have to believe what we believe. Not only do you have to believe what we believe, you have to fund what we believe. We don’t care what your faith teaches. We’re going to coerce you and we will impose fines, if necessary, to make you violate your faith.’

“That’s not what freedom is all about.”

Erickson said he wanted to make it clear – he has provided a healthcare plan for his employees for many years and doesn’t object to continuing that through the ACA. He does not, though, want to fund “chemically induced miscarriages,” as Dys put it.

“Doug has no qualms about providing healthcare coverage,” Dys said. “The problem comes down when … this particular healthcare coverage happens to violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of Doug Erickson.”

The drugs Plan B and ella are among the pills that Erickson is firmly against funding. If he doesn’t fund them, Dys said Erickson could be fined $100 per employee per day until he does. A similar case, filed by Hobby Lobby, is moving through the Supreme Court now. In the meantime, Erickson is hoping to get at least a temporary injunction from the courts.

Initially, Erickson said he heard nothing but positive feedback, both from his employees and from members of the Hastings community.

“I’ve had a lot of people thank me for being courageous and taking a stand,” Erickson said. “What I’m hearing so far is that it has helped other people of faith to be strong in what they believe in as well.”