Sioux Chief pushes back against government, big and small

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On January 14, 2013, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Sioux Chief Manufacturing in Cass County. The plumbing products manufacturer, run by Chief Executive Officer Joe Ismert, decided to stand behind their strong Catholic beliefs and challenge the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act mandate that requires employers to provide a “morning after” pill to their employees.

Plan-B One Step, a popular maker of the pill, states on their website, “Plan B One-Step® is intended for someone who has had unprotected sex or birth control failure within the last 72 hours (3days) and wants to prevent pregnancy from happening.” The Ismerts view this as a form of abortion, causing a life to end after it has begun.

Hobby Lobby has been the most famous corporation to fight against this mandate for the same reason. Based on their Christian values, Hobby Lobby’s executive family, led by CEO Steve Green, believes his first amendment right to religious expression should pre-vent his company from being forced to obey this mandate. Most Democrats disagree, stating that corporations should not be al-lowed to use liberties laid out in the Constitution to make cases for their businesses.

Green has previously expressed his thoughts and intent behind the lawsuit: “We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally are what we should operate our lives by, and it actually flows over into the business.”

“This is an issue of life. We cannot be a part of taking life.”

Sioux Chief’s executives echo the same sentiments as the Green family in their lawsuit.

“Ours is a little more all-encompassing because we’ve never covered any contraception, abortion, or voluntary sterilization. We’ve never covered any of it because of our Catholic faith,” CEO Joe Ismert said.

“We’re simply following the Catholic church and its teachings.”

According to court documents in the Sioux Chief case, “Plaintiffs move for a preliminary injunction, staying enforcement of the Health and Human Service regulations requiring Plaintiffs to provide its employees insurance coverage for ‘all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.’ 77 Fed. Reg. 8725. Defendants do not oppose Plaintiff’s Motion pending the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Annex Medical, Inc. v. Kathleen Sebelius, No.13-1118 (8th Cir. Feb. 1, 013) or O’Brien v. U.S. Dep’t of Healthand Human Services, No. 12-3357(8th Cir. Nov. 288, 2012), which-ever comes first.”

That motion was made in February of 2013 and not much has happened since. From Ismert’s view, all smaller courts are waiting to see what will happen with the Hobby Lobby case since it has made its way to the Supreme Court. The Sioux Chief case is resting the Missouri Western District Court system under the direction of Presiding Judge Ortrie D. Smith.

“We’re just waiting,” Ismert said. A decision was originally sup-posed to have been made on the Sioux Chief case in March or April, but as that didn’t come, it is likely that after a decision is made on Hobby Lobby’s case this year, the district and circuit courts will follow suit.

In a much more different and local battle, Sioux Chief is also pushing back against the city of Peculiar. The debate is over involuntary annexation that the city would be imposing on the land where Sioux Chief’s manufacturing building resides.

A city staff memo reads, “It is the belief of City Staff that one of the keys to Peculiar’s growth will be land use decisions that are de-signed to not only make the City an attractive place to live, but also to engage in business. It is important that the City be able to control growth in an orderly and desirable manner both for the impact upon the City’s infrastructure and our residents.

“Effectively the only method the City can employ to control grow this to bring lands, not currently in the City, within Peculiar’s City Limits and therefore subject such lands to the City’s zoning and land use regulations as established by ordinance.”

Sioux Chief Manufacturing exists on the fourth of four tracts of land that the city is looking to annex. On May 5, the Peculiar Board of Aldermen gathered to decide on if the city should move forward with this annexation plan.

“The annexation of tract four was originally planned in 2004, conditioned upon the completion of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) which funded construction of the Sanitary Sewer Extension to tract four,” read Cliff McDonald, Peculiar City Planner, to the Aldermen that Monday night.

The CDBG funded the entire half-million dollar project that improved the status of sewers on properties existing in tract four. In the documents of the CDBG Company Project Narratives found on Peculiar’s website, it states, “The project site will be annexed into the City of Peculiar and the city will re-establish zoning for properties new to the city.”

This document was “submitted by” Sioux Chief in 2004, according to McDonald and city records, with no specific date set for the annexation. After ten years, the city thinks it’s time to move for-ward, but the company believes the plan is an overreach of local government.

“I’ve got to be against the application (of annexation),” Joe Ismert told the Board of Aldermen Monday night.

“The taxes would lay us open to we don’t know. We’re doing perfectly fine the way we are…Unless there’s more specified as to what is in it for us, in the annexation, I have got to [oppose].”

Joe Ismert, Jr., the CEO’s son and President of the company, also spoke at the Board of Aldermen meeting. Reiterating the thoughts of his father, Ismert, Jr. was persistent in asking what benefits there would be to the company.

Peculiar city staff repeatedly directed the Ismerts to the agenda’s accompanying packet, which outlined the benefits of being a part of the city of Peculiar. The list of effects caused by joining Peculiar consisted of economic development programs, proposed street improvements, water service, sanitary sewer service, fire protection, police protection, parks and recreation, taxation, existing land use and pro-posed zoning, and other miscellaneous municipal services.

“What would be the incentive to annex that property?” Ismert, Jr. asked, pressing McDonald for answers. City Administrator Brad Ratliff spoke up, stating that the city will provide Sioux Chief with “economic tools” as listed in the agenda’s packet.

In a somewhat uncomfortable exchange, Ismert, Jr., who is clearly unhappy with the annexation plan, kept asking questions about the benefits of being in the city and Ratliff kept answering until the company president made his way back to his seat.

According to city and Sioux Chief estimations, the manufacturer would have to pay around $13,000 in city taxes annually, though they would save $4,000 annually through city services.

“Sioux Chief has been well aware of the annexation issue as outlined in their own plan of intent for grant funds from ten years ago. They are additionally aware of the benefits and protections that will well serve them in the city limits,” says Ratliff.

“We cannot help an existing business unless they are inside the City limits.”

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