Christian Colleges Ask Supreme Court to Stop Obama From Forcing Them to Obey HHS Mandate

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 5, 2016   |   5:02PM   |   Washington, DC

A group of Christian colleges based in Oklahoma are asking the Supreme Court to help them in their battle to stop the Obama administration from forcing them to obey the HHS mandate, which compels them to pay for abortion-causing drugs in their health care plans in violation of their conscience.

The mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties by the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies if the mandate’s requirements aren’t met.

Several religious non-profit organizations filed an opening brief Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent a Christian college and four Christian universities that asked 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.

ADF says 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. Geneva College in Pennsylvania and the four universities in Oklahoma – Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Mid-America Christian University – specifically object to providing abortifacients.

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“The government has no legitimate basis for forcing faith-based educational institutions to provide abortion pills to their employees or students,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “The Obama administration is forcing the schools to choose between following their faith and following the government’s rule. This is utterly inconsistent with legal protections for religious liberty.”

“The administration continues to impose the same unacceptable choice: obey and abandon your freedom, or resist and be punished,” added ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “The Supreme Court should reverse the appeals courts’ rulings and ensure that people of faith are not punished for making decisions consistent with that faith.”

ADF attorneys and allied attorneys represented Conestoga Wood Specialties and its owners in their victory against the abortion-pill mandate at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014. While that case addressed the mandate as it applies to for-profit family-run businesses, these cases pertain to the mandate as applied to non-profit organizations. Although the administration argues that executing and submitting a so-called “accommodation” form insulates religious nonprofits from providing abortifacients, ADF attorneys explain that is not the case.

The form directly involves the Christian colleges in providing abortifacients in multiple ways by, for example, (1) altering their health plans to allow for the provision of such drugs or devices, (2) requiring them to notify or identify to the government who their insurers or third-party administrators are so that they can provide the drugs or devices on the colleges’ behalf, (3) officially authorizing their TPA as a plan and claims administrator solely for the purpose of providing the items, and (4) requiring them to identify and contract with a TPA that is willing to provide the drugs and devices to which they religiously object.

As the brief filed Monday explains, the government’s coercion of the non-profits “can be explained only by its refusal to credit their sincere religious beliefs that the role the government wants them to play would be a sin. The government is certainly free to disagree with that belief, but it is not free to disregard it. Yet that is precisely what its regulatory scheme does – and precisely what RFRA [the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act] forbids.”

In September, the Obama administration renewed its attempt to force a Catholic religious order, the Little Sisters of the Poor, to comply with the HHS abortion mandate. The government is still trying to force the nuns to either violate their deeply held religious convictions or pay crippling fines to the IRS.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the Christian-run Hobby Lobby doesn’t have to obey the HHS mandate that is a part of Obamacare that requires businesses to pay for abortion causing drugs in their employee health care plans.

A December 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll shows Americans disagree with forcing companies like Hobby Lobby to obey the mandate.

“Half of voters now oppose a government requirement that employers provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their female employees,” Rasmussen reports.

The poll found: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 38% of Likely U.S. Voters still believe businesses should be required by law to provide health insurance that covers all government-approved contraceptives for women without co-payments or other charges to the patient.

Fifty-one percent (51%) disagree and say employers should not be required to provide health insurance with this type of coverage. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.”

Another recent poll found 59 percent of Americans disagree with the mandate.