Colorado Christian University became the first interdenominational Christian college to challenge in federal court the Obamacare mandate of abortifacients – drugs that induce abortions.
On Wednesday, CCU joined Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic college in North Carolina in filing a lawsuit over the regulation that requires employers' health insurance plans to provide free contraception and sterilization under their group health plan.
As a Christian college, CCU teaches the sanctity of life at all stages, and that abortions are against God’s law.
The contraception regulation is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which requires group health plans to include “[a]ll Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”
FDA-approved contraceptives include a number of drugs Colorado Christian and many scientists consider to be abortifacients – most notably Plan B (“morning after pill”) and ella (“week after pill”).
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represents both colleges in their separate lawsuits.
“If the Administration thought that conscience objections to this HHS mandate would be muted or isolated, Colorado Christian’s lawsuit proves otherwise,” said Hannah Smith, senior legal counsel at the Becket Fund, in a statement.
She also told The Christian Post that this case is important because CCU is the first evangelical group to file a lawsuit over the mandate. “It’s not just a Catholic issue. It affects religious organizations across the spectrum.”
The Obamacare mandate includes a narrow religious exemption, but the exemption covers only religious groups whose purpose is "the inculcation of religious values." To qualify for the exemption, employees of a religious organization must mainly be of one faith and must primarily serve members of that faith. This would exclude religious hospitals and many relief organizations, which often operate under a broad blanket of religious denominations.
Smith told CP that CCU believes it won’t qualify for this exemption, especially because it is interdenominational. The exemption also doesn’t include student health care plans, so CCU would be required to provide contraceptives and abortifacients.
CCU President Bill Armstrong said in a statement: “This mandate forbids us from practicing what we preach. How can we train our college students to advocate for limited government and personal freedom – especially religious freedom – if we don’t fight this unparalleled attack on those very principles?”
Kathleen Sebelius, the Department of Health and Human Services secretary, announced in August that the health care mandate for preventive services would include contraceptives. Sebelius said that not covering contraceptives in insurance plans "would be like not covering flu shots."
President Barack Obama has said he is open to expanding the religious exemption of the health care law, and HHS is currently reviewing the public comments it received in the fall regarding the contraceptives rule and the exemption. The proposed rule is set to go into effect in August 2012.
Smith said she hopes the CCU case, and others like it, will get the federal government to back down. “Hopefully the Obama Administration will realize that because of these lawsuits they need to take religious rights more seriously, and need to broaden their exemptions to include religious universities and organizations.”