WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Christian institutions have filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to challenge a requirement surrounding what has been dubbed as the Obamacare abortion pill mandate.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the popular craft chain Hobby Lobby before the high court last year, filed the appeal this week on behalf of Houston Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University and the Pennsylvania-based Westminster Theological Seminary.
The schools had sued the Obama administration in 2013 out of their belief that the government’s attempt at exempting them from the mandate still required them to provide abortion-inducing drugs for staff.
“We oppose taking life of the unborn from the womb,” said Dr. Robert Sloan, president of Houston Baptist University. “Having to provide these kinds of drugs or protocols that destroy the life of a fertilized egg—we’re just opposed to it. Whether a person agrees with that view or not, it’s our sincerely held belief. We believe it to our core.”
“We didn’t go looking for this fight,” he stated. “But here we stand and can do no other. We cannot help the government or anyone else provide potentially life-threatening drugs and devices. The government has many other ways to achieve its goals without involving us. It ought to pick one of those and let us go back to educating our students.”
As previously reported, the University of Notre Dame had filed a similar lawsuit over the compromise, as did the evangelical Geneva College of Beaver Falls and the Roman Catholic dioceses in Erie and Pittsburgh. The government compromise required organizations to submit exemption forms so that their insurance company would pick up the tab for the drugs instead of the institution.
The entities argued in court that transferring the responsibility to pay for the drugs doesn’t assuage their concerns, as they would still be helping their employees obtain the abortion-inducing medications.
“[S]igning such a form or letter facilitates moral evil,” they wrote in legal briefs. “This is true whether or not applicants pay for the objectionable coverage.”
The U.S. Supreme Court remanded Notre Dame’s case back to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, ordering it to reconsider its decision in light of the high court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby opinion. Geneva College and the Roman Catholic dioceses in Erie and Pittsburgh were granted temporary relief in April while their challenge moved forward in court.
The joint Houston Baptist, East Texas Baptist and Westminster Theological petition filed this week with the court made similar arguments.
“It is all well and good for the government to think it has threaded the needle and found a way for religious nonprofits to comply with the contraceptive mandate without violating their religious beliefs, but ultimately it is for the religious adherent to determine how much facilitation or complicity is too much,” it reads.
The court is expected to announce in September or October whether or not it will hear the appeal.
“The Supreme Court should step in and tell the federal government that separation of church and state is a two-way street,” said Diana Verm, legal counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, in a press release. “The state should not be able to take over parts of the church—including these religious ministries—just so it has an easier way of distributing life terminating drugs.”