Two more Christian colleges have filed a lawsuit against President Barack Obama's administration, challenging its mandate that requires faith-based employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs at no cost to employees.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana by attorneys of the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Grace College and Seminary in Indiana and Biola University in California.
"Christian colleges should remain free to operate according to their deeply-held beliefs. Punishing religious people and organizations for freely exercising their faith is an assault on our most fundamental American freedoms," said Gregory S. Baylor, ADF's senior counsel, in a statement.
The mandate, Baylor added, 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. Every American should know that a government with the power to do this to anyone can do this – and worse –to everyone."
The lawsuit, the latest to challenge the mandate, argues that the measure violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the First and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
ADF attorneys earlier filed three other lawsuits against the mandate. One on behalf of Geneva College and The Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company in Pennsylvania, another on behalf of Louisiana College in Louisiana, and a third on behalf of Hercules Industries in Colorado.
In the latter lawsuit, a federal court ruled that the abortion pill mandate cannot be enforced against the Colo. family-owned business.
"The Obama administration's mandate forces us to act against our own doctrinal statement, which upholds the sanctity of human life," Biola University President Barry H. Corey said in the statement by ADF. "It unjustly intrudes on our religious liberty as protected under the U.S. Constitution and makes a mockery of our attempts to live our lives according to our faith convictions, time-honored and long protected."
Grace College and Seminary President Ronald E. Manahan joined in condemning the mandate.
"Government officials do not have the right to require religious organizations to act in a way contrary to deeply-held religious beliefs, nor do they have the right to define what constitutes the free exercise of religion," he said. "To determine that Grace College and Seminary is not 'religious enough' to qualify for an exemption from this mandate is an affront to the religious freedom and free conscience of dedicated Christian organizations across America."
The Washington, D.C.-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty says that as many as 25 actions have been filed, representing a large cross-section of Protestants and Catholics against the contraceptive mandate, which was announced in January by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.