Four Christian schools in Oklahoma fight Obamacare

Several Christian universities – including Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville – and other nonprofit groups filed an opening brief on January 4 with the U.S. Supreme Court concerning a federal mandate to provide abortion in health insurance.

OKWU, Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Southern Nazarene University and Mid-America Christian University (both in Oklahoma City) joined Geneva College in Pennsylvania to fight an Obamacare provision that mandates that the abortion-causing pills be part of health insurance provided to employees.

Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom are representing the universities in the action. They are asking the high court to review appeals court decisions that upheld the mandate in Geneva College v. Burwell and Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell, two of seven cases that the Supreme Court agreed in November of last year to take up.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception through their health plans under threat of heavy penalties.

They object to providing abortifacients because it violates their Christian faith.

On January 12, U.S. Sen. James Lankford hosted Oklahoma Wesleyan University President Dr. Everett Piper as his guest for the State of the Union address. Dr. Piper is the fifth president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, a private faith-based institution that was established in 1909.

“Oklahoma Wesleyan University is a leader in the national struggle to protect the constitutional right of religious liberty in the United States,” Lankford said. “Their stand for freedom before the Supreme Court will bring clarity to our personal liberties and the battle between religious freedom and religious suppression. Instead of allowing diversity of thought and practice, the Obama administration demands conformity to their religious worldview. I applaud Dr. Piper’s stand for religious freedom, and I remain hopeful that the courts will rule in favor of religious diversity and practice. Freedom of religious practice is an essential right for every citizen. Americans have the right to choose no faith at all, or to practice a faith and live their faith free of government suppression.”

In this case, the court will determine if Obamacare’s employer mandate for nonprofit entities like universities and charities, such as the (Catholic) Little Sisters of the Poor, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and contraception is constitutional. Last year, the Supreme Court held that this mandate violated RFRA as applied to a religious for-profit corporation. These new cases argue that the false accommodation crafted by the Obama administration still forces them to violate their sincerely-held religious beliefs.

Oral arguments are expected to begin in late March.

Senator Lankford is an advocate of religious freedom, and has long been an opponent of Obamacare and its mandates. In August of last year, Lankford introduced the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, a bill that would ensure that organizations, private businesses, institutions of higher education, health care providers, and insurance companies are not forced to sponsor insurance coverage that violates their religious or moral beliefs.

Lankford also serves as the co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, which works to protect the fundamental human right of religious freedom and guards the right of individuals to pray and practice their faith freely.

Also, Lankford sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of the Department of Education, John King, to question their use of guidance documents that attempt to inappropriately establish regulatory-type policy changes for colleges and universities without going through the rule-making process.

As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, Lankford led a hearing in September on whether federal agencies, including the Department of Education, use regulatory guidance appropriately. Testimony from the hearing confirmed that several federal agencies in the Obama administration are issuing complex guidance documents that create new mandates and obligations without the normal transparent rule-making process, which is clearly inconsistent with the law.