A federal court has mandated that Christian colleges in Oklahoma be forced to pay for contraceptive methods that cause abortion for their employees as part of Obamacare.
Four Christian universities, who stand against abortion, sought an exemption from the Obamacare mandate for contraception because the law doesn’t protect their constitutional religious freedoms.
But the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appelas in Denver thinks otherwise and will try to force Christians to pay for abortions.
The universities in the suit are Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartletsville and Mid-America Christian University in Oklahoma City. The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Denver-based Roman Catholic ministry that runs more than two dozen nursing homes around the country, also joined the lawsuit.
“We see this ruling as an arrogant disregard for women,” said Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. “It is condescending and anti-choice. The federal government is literally telling the 70-year-old nuns at the Little Sisters of the Poor, as well as all the female employees of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, that they are not intelligent enough to choose what contraception should or should not be included in their personal health insurance.
“How can we stand for such disrespect for women? At OKWU ,we hold our female employees in much higher regard than this and we will continue to fight any government hubris to the contrary.”
Contrary to reports in the liberal news media, the Christian universities are not trying to deny contraception to women employees. They just don’t want to be forced to pay for insurance that includes forms of contraception that cause abortions.
Piper said he is talking with his legal counsel to see how OKWU will react to the decision.
Under Obamacare, religious organizations – including schools and hospitals – can apply for an exemption to the contraception mandate. But the government says that once an exemption is granted, a third party would provide the abortion-causing contraception. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit find that arrangement unacceptable because it makes them complicit in the death of an unborn child.
“I believe it is wrong for the government to require an organization to compromise its religious convictions,” Piper said.
“At this point we’re waiting for further counsel from our attorney as to our next steps.”
The plaintiffs are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Mark Rienzi, senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said, “We’re disappointed with today’s decision. After losing repeatedly at the Supreme Court, the government continues its unrelenting pursuit of the Little Sisters of the Poor. It is a national embarrassment that the world’s most powerful government insists that, instead of providing contraceptives through its own existing exchanges and programs, it must crush the Little Sisters’ faith and force them to participate. Untold millions of people have managed to get contraceptives without involving nuns, and there is no reason the government cannot run its programs without hijacking the Little Sisters and their health plan.”
The Becket Fund said it will appeal the decision.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby, a family owned Christian business in Oklahoma City, did not have to provide abortion causing contraception in its insurance.
In another action, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt sent a letter to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen asking for clarification of the agency’s policy regarding tax-exempt status for religious institutions in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on homosexual marriage.
The letter addresses the concern that religious institutions may be targeted and denied tax-exempt status by the IRS based on the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage and comments made by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli during the oral arguments of the case. A change in tax-exempt status for religious institutions that refuse to violate their religious beliefs regarding homosexual marriage would violate the First Amendment and undermine the liberty of all Americans.
The letter follows two other inquiries by Pruitt, dated August and October of 2014, that requested information and clarification from the agency pertaining to, among other things, IRS policies for reviewing and determining tax-exempt status of religious institutions. So far the agency has been unresponsive.
“In light of the Supreme Court’s decision, the comments made by Solicitor General Verrilli, and the IRS’s recent record of acting outside the law, tens of millions of Americans are worried about their First Amendment rights, specifically the right to freely exercise their religious beliefs,” Pruitt said. “A formal statement from the IRS would assure citizens and nonprofit organizations that they have the freedom to engage in lively discourse and exercise religious beliefs openly, in accordance with the First Amendment.”
“The First Amendment expressly forbids actions that would ‘prohibit the free exercise’ of religion—including a policy of hunting down and taking away tax-exempt status of thousands of religious institutions that refuse to violate their religious beliefs regarding same-sex marriage,” the letter states.