Several Southern Baptist and secular organizations have filed a friend-of-the-court brief to support a legal challenge to the Obama administration's contraception mandate by the Southern Baptist Convention's insurance provider and evangelical ministries.
"Scripture and Southern Baptist belief prohibit not only direct and personal wrongdoing, but also the enabling, authorizing, incentivizing or aiding of another in doing what the Christian believes to be sin," states the brief filed by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and other Southern Baptist leaders.
The brief filed during this week urges the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to uphold a lower court's temporary and preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the Department of Health and Human Services mandate, which requires employers to provide insurance coverage for some abortion drugs, sterilization and contraception.
"Christian doctrine teaches that believers who knowingly aid or abet another's wrongdoing have themselves done wrong," the brief adds. "Accordingly, a statute or regulation requiring a Southern Baptist individual or ministry to be complicit in conduct that the Christian faith teaches is morally wrong forces that person or ministry into an impossible choice – to either violate conscience or violate the law – and imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion."
Amici include the National Association of Evangelicals, Prison Fellowship, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Christian Medical Association, the Christian Legal Society, the American Center for Law and Justice, Concerned Women for America, Americans United for Life, the Judicial Education Project, and law professor Helen Alvaré.
They were joined by several other Southern Baptist groups, including the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the International Mission Board, and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
GuideStone Financial Resources, which is the benefits arm of the SBC, and two groups that are part of its healthcare plan, Reaching Souls International and Truett-McConnell College, represent nearly 200 religious ministries in their lawsuit against the HHS Mandate.
GuideStone covers the contraceptive methods used by most American women, such as the Pill. But GuideStone, Reaching Souls, Truett-McConnell and others are against contraceptives that can destroy newly-created human life.
"Reaching Souls cares for orphans in Africa and trains pastors in Africa, India, and Cuba. Truett-McConnell trains college students to follow Christ with their whole lives. These ministries – and hundreds others like them – have chosen GuideStone because they want health benefits that reflect their deeply-held Christian beliefs," Adèle Keim, legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for GuideStone, said in a statement. "But in the government's view, these ministries are 'not religious enough' to merit an exemption. The government wants to force small non-profit ministries like Reaching Souls and Truett-McConnell to change their health plan in a way that violates their consciences – or pay crushing penalties."
The previous lawsuit was filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Locke Lord LLP in federal district court in Oklahoma last year to win a preliminary injunction from the HHS Mandate. The government has appealed to the10th Circuit, and the parties are currently briefing that appeal.