Michael Potter, the CEO of Eden Foods, has been outed by Irin Carmon at Salon as an anti-contraception crusader to his largely liberal customer base, and, to the delight of all watching, has an inability to grasp how incoherent he sounds as he keeps trying to explain what this is all about. Eden Foods is one of the many private companies that are suing the federal government over the HHS mandate requiring that contraception be treated like a preventive health care service and offered without a co-pay. Potter’s lawyers, provided by the conservative Thomas More Society, have argued that Potter’s deep religious beliefs mean he should be able to prevent his employees from spending their own benefits on contraception. But now that the lawsuit has come to light and the company has received thousands of complaints from its customers, Potter is trying to backtrack. In fact, he won’t even admit he has any particular religious beliefs, and says this is about the federal government meddling in his business. As he told Salon, “I don’t care if the federal government is telling me to buy my employees Jack Daniel’s or birth control.”
Ian Millhiser, a legal analyst for Think Progress, noted that Potter’s utter lack of religious conviction undermined his already-thin case. When Carmon called Potter back for comment, he seemed very confused by his lawyers’ claims about devout religious faith. Carmon asked him what particular religious belief led him to sue, and his answer is surely one beloved by his lawyers:
“Well, there isn’t any one particular religious belief, Irin,” he said, sounding irritated. “I find it hard to get my head around the question.”
He then went on to claim that his employees could get “free” contraception elsewhere, because of the HHS mandate. In reality, they cannot, because the HHS mandate doesn’t offer alternatives to employees whose employers have told them they can’t use their own insurance benefits.
Not only has Potter jeopardized his own case, but arguably, he’s managed to expose the larger issue with the lawsuits regarding the contraception mandate. Anti-choicers who support these lawsuits have vehemently denied that this is about separating as many women as possible from affordable contraception options. Instead, they swear up and down that it’s about “religious freedom.” No doubt the government lawyers are rubbing their hands in glee and hoping that Carmon and Potter have a few more chats about his non-existent religious convictions. I’d love to listen into the conversations where his lawyers beg him to stop talking to reporters.