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Christian colleges to Supreme Court: Govt can’t mandate abortion pill coverage

ADF attorneys represent Pennsylvania Christian college, four Oklahoma Christian universities.

WASHINGTON – Several religious non-profit organizations filed an opening brief Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court in consolidated lawsuits against the Obama administration’s abortion-pill mandate and its religious non-profit options, all of which force the groups to violate their faith. 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.

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.

“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.”

ADF attorneys and allied attorneys are also litigating numerous other lawsuits against the mandate.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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Gregory S. Baylor
Gregory S. Baylor
Senior Counsel, Director of the Center for Religious Schools
Gregory S. Baylor serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is the director of the Center for Religious Schools and senior counsel with the Center for Public Policy.
David Cortman
David A. Cortman
Senior Counsel, Vice President of U.S. Litigation
David A. Cortman serves as senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation with Alliance Defending Freedom.