All four schools — Oklahoma Baptist University, Mid-America Christian University, Southern Nazarene University, and Oklahoma Wesleyan University – assert that the ObamaCare stipulation violates their constitutional rights, forcing them to violate their deeply held Christian beliefs against abortion in order to avoid massive governmental fines.
The Oklahoma schools join dozens of other religious employers who have sued the federal government over the contraceptive/abortifacient mandate.
While the Obama administration has offered a limited “compromise” arrangement exempting certain churches and religious organizations from the rule, schools or businesses and other entities who employ and/or serve people outside of their own faith are not covered by the exception.
“The universities are Christ-centered institutions of higher learning,” the schools’ attorneys wrote in the lawsuit, filed Friday. “They believe that God has condemned the intentional destruction of innocent human life. The Universities hold, as a matter of religious conviction, that it would be sinful and immoral for them intentionally to participate in, pay for, facilitate, enable, or otherwise support access to abortion, which destroys human life.”
But they argued that the government “continues to treat entities like the universities as second-class religious organizations, not entitled to the same religious freedom rights as substantially similar entities that qualify for the exemption.” They asserted that the “rationale for entirely exempting churches and integrated auxiliaries from the regulations--their employees are likely to share their religious convictions--applies equally to the universities.”
The lawsuit says the schools reject the “accommodation” offered by the Obama administration, in which religious employers not covered by the exception can distance themselves from actions they consider immoral by passing the cost on to the insurance company instead of paying for it themselves.
That arrangement, according to the schools’ lawyers, “still conscripts the Universities into the government’s scheme, forcing them to obtain an insurer or third-party claims administrator and submit a form that specifically causes that insurer or third-party administrator to arrange payment for the objectionable drugs, so that such coverage will apply to the Universities’ own employees as a direct consequence of their employment with the Universities and of their participation in the health insurance benefits the Universities provide them.”
The lawyers also pointed out that the federal government has exempted numerous public and private employers from various requirements of ObamaCare for “purely secular reasons.”
“Employers with ’grandfathered’ plans, small employers, and favored others are exempt from these rules,” the lawyers wrote in their filing.
According to the lawsuit, if the universities "follow their religious convictions and decline to participate in the government's scheme, they will face, among other injuries, enormous fines that will cripple their operations.”
“Christian colleges should remain free to operate according to the beliefs that define them,” said Gregory Baylor, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, who is representing the schools in court. “This mandate leaves religious employers with no real choice: you must either comply and abandon your religious freedom and conscience, or resist and be taxed for your faith. If religious convictions mean nothing in this context, there is no stopping what the government can ultimately do.”