CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Saying it violates his religious beliefs, South Charleston auto dealer Joe Holland is asking a judge to block the federal government from forcing him to include abortion and contraceptive coverage in his company's health insurance plan.
Backed by attorneys from the Texas-based Liberty Institute and Family Policy Council of West Virginia, Holland filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Charleston Monday asking the court to exempt him from federal health care provisions he says violate his constitutional rights.
At issue in the case are regulations developed following the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requiring businesses with more than 50 employees to provide a minimum level of health insurance for their employees, including preventive reproductive care.
President Barack Obama's administration has pushed for the preventive care rule as a way to expand coverage and ease the costs of birth control, which can average about $600 a year.
"Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women and their families, is documented to significantly reduce health costs, and is the most commonly taken drug in America by young and middle-aged women," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a 2012 statement.
"This rule will provide women with greater access to contraception by requiring coverage and by prohibiting cost sharing," Sebelius said.
According to federal rules, that coverage must include U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods and procedures -- including versions of the so-called "morning-after pill," which works up to five days after sex.
Coverage must also include patient education and counseling regarding those products and procedures.
Holland owns the Joe Holland Chevrolet dealership in South Charleston, which employs 150 people.
While the company currently provides health insurance to its employees, the plans do not include contraceptive or abortion coverage.
In the complaint filed Monday, Holland said his current policy is set to expire at the end of the month. A new policy, subject to the new federal guidelines, would take effect July 1.
Holland, who describes himself as a born-again Christian, said in an affidavit supporting the complaint he felt it was his duty to operate his business according to his religious beliefs.
"I believe that running Holland Chevrolet in accordance with the teachings of the Bible is a ministry to its employees, its customers, and the community of which it is a part," Holland said.
Holland Chevrolet's mission statement, posted on the company's website, emphasizes "Our Corporate purpose is to glorify and honor God by being faithful stewards for all that is entrusted to us."
The dealership is closed on Sundays to honor the Exodus 20 commandment to "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." It also displays the ichthus -- the Greek symbol for a fish used by early Christians as a sign of their faith -- on its website, signage and advertisements.
The dealership also has a staff chaplain.
According to the complaint, Holland experienced a religious conversion in 1996, which led him to become a believing and practicing born-again Christian. He now attends Maranatha Fellowship Church in St. Albans on a weekly basis, attends a weekly men's Bible study group and delivers religious readings on Christian radio broadcasts.
He supports ministries like the youth-oriented Silver Ring Ministry and Life Chain that promote abstinence before marriage and pro-life religious teachings.