WSJ: Why We Have Gone to Court against the Obama Mandate
“We, the presidents of Colorado Christian University, Geneva College, and Louisiana College, through our respective attorneys with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Alliance Defense Fund, are taking a stand.”
Read WSJ op-ed here
We are presidents of three private, evangelical colleges throughout the country. Our colleges enrich each of our communities. We educate young men and women for virtuous and productive roles in society. We engage in service and charitable outreach. We provide jobs to many hundreds of citizens and provide their families generous health insurance.
But the Obama administration has passed a rule that will penalize our colleges with faith-based fines merely because we center our beliefs about the sanctity of human life on the Bible, not on the demands of federal bureaucrats. The administration’s mandate that religious employers provide coverage of abortion-inducing drugs for their faculty, staff, and students is a bridge too far in America.
This “conscience tax” is a blatant violation of the freedoms of religion and speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and affirmed by federal laws such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This mandate would be unjust even if it applied only to those who accept government funding, but it does much more than that. It applies to private, religious employers just because they exist in American society, regardless of whether they receive government funding.
That is why our colleges have each filed suit in federal court to stop this illegal overreach.
Our suits are not directed at “contraception,” although some would like you to believe that. Rather, they are about the government forcing us and other religious organizations to provide access to drugs and services that violate our deepest religious convictions. Specifically, we would be forced to offer abortion-inducing drugs as a part of our insurance benefits, and that is a line we cannot cross.
Though our lawsuits are focused on the abortion-inducing drugs, we also respect the religious freedom of Catholics and others who do not want to facilitate access to contraception generally. The government does not have the right to tell anyone that they must sacrifice their religious freedoms and violate their consciences just to participate in American society.
Abortifacient drugs, although classified by the government as “contraceptives,” act to destroy life after conception. The FDA’s own drug labeling admits this. To require us to provide insurance coverage for such methods is abhorrent and unacceptable.
As Christians, we believe in the sanctity of human life. We believe that God knits each human together in the mother’s womb. We obey the Sixth Commandment—you shall not murder—and believe that abortion is not justifiable, although action can be taken to protect the life of a mother.
Forcing us to provide abortifacient drugs for our faculty, staff, and students through our insurance plans tramples on our deeply held Christian convictions to uphold life, as decreed by God Himself.
Defenders of this mandate say exemptions can’t be granted because the Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as ObamaCare, is “generally applicable,” meaning it applies to everyone. But the act is already riddled with exemptions, except to respect our consciences. It exempts the Amish, offers thousands of waivers to small businesses, grandfathers certain plans, and exempts churches if they only serve their own members. But the religious schools we represent are somehow not religious enough, according to the government. We trust that such an obviously bad argument will not succeed in court.
The administration’s recently touted “accommodation” solves nothing either. First of all, the First Amendment is not to be “accommodated,” it is to be respected. But a few hours after the president announced his “accommodation,” he codified his original discriminatory rule “without change” anyway. So nothing has changed.
The administration claims it will pass an additional rule shifting the mandate’s financial burdens to our insurers. But even if a new rule were enacted and our insurers agreed not to pass along the costs—a dubious proposition at best—it would only show that the president has missed the moral point. Our colleges will still be forced to provide plans that directly enable coverage of drugs and services to which we object on religious grounds. It would be like forcing us to provide cable television to our students, but alleging that the cable company, “not us,” will provide the Playboy Channel for “free.” We do not accept this shell-game theology, and the government cannot force us to adopt its conscience instead of ours.
So we, the presidents of Colorado Christian University, Geneva College, and Louisiana College, through our respective attorneys with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Alliance Defense Fund, are taking a stand. When the state oversteps its First Amendment bounds by forcing religious institutions and believers to violate their religious convictions, we must call the state to account, or else we risk being responsible for facilitating evils such as abortion.
We desire to serve both God and country, and we educate students who are prepared to serve their country and society out of love for and obedience to Christ. But in the end, as one of us has recently stated, we only have one Lord, and He does not reside in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Armstrong is president of Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colo.; Mr. Smith is president of Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa., and Mr. Aguillard is president of Louisiana College in Pineville, La. All three schools have filed suit in federal court against President Obama’s abortifacient mandate.