(Photo: Jayne White)
Four Christian universities in Oklahoma are the latest to sue the Obama administration over its mandate that forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception.
Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University and Mid-America Christian University filed the new lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma on Friday.
They specifically objected to providing coverage for abortifacients, the Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed the suit on their behalf, said in a statement.
"Christian colleges should remain free to operate according to the beliefs that define them," the group's Senior Counsel, Gregory S. Baylor, said. "This mandate leaves religious employers with no real choice: you must either comply and abandon your religious freedom and conscience, or resist and be taxed for your faith. If religious convictions mean nothing in this context, there is no stopping what the government can ultimately do."
The suit states that the administration continues "to treat entities like the Universities as second-class religious organizations, not entitled to the same religious freedom rights as substantially similar entities that qualify for the exemption." It adds that the "rationale for entirely exempting churches and integrated auxiliaries from the regulations--their employees are likely to share their religious convictions--applies equally to the Universities."
The suit challenging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate also points out that if the universities "follow their religious convictions and decline to participate in the government's scheme, they will face, among other injuries, enormous fines that will cripple their operations."
Dozens of lawsuits, many of them Christian universities, have challenged the requirement in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that for-profit companies offer employees insurance coverage for contraceptive drugs, and devices and other birth control methods.
Last month, Colorado Christian University renewed its lawsuit against the HSS' abortion-drug "accommodation."
In late June, HHS announced the details of its final rule on contraception coverage in light of religious liberty concerns voiced by several businesses and churches.
"With respect to an insured health plan, including a student health plan, the non-profit religious organization provides notice to its insurer that it objects to contraception coverage," HHS said in a press release at the time. "The insurer then notifies enrollees in the health plan that it is providing them separate no-cost payments for contraceptive services for as long as they remain enrolled in the health plan."
Despite the alternative routes to providing contraceptives, the HHS mandate is still in opposition to their religious viewpoints.
Weeks later, Naples, Fla.-based Ave Maria University also filed a second lawsuit challenging the mandate.
"The bureaucrats proposed solution does not solve anything," said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents both CCU and Ave Maria in this matter.