The abortion-drug and contraceptive mandate issued by the Obama administration is a frontal assault on the freedoms given to every American by God Himself, and guaranteed in our Constitution. If allowed to stand, the precedent will have been set that the government can, in fact, prohibit the free exercise of religion, by taking to itself the power to define what is and is not religious behavior, and by punishing those whose faith leads them to make decisions for themselves or their organizations that contradict government directives.
There are many in the press, however, who want to hijack this discussion and make it about a woman’s “right” to contraception. But this is not the central issue. At the heart of the matter is whether the government can require religious organizations, or individuals, to provide services or engage in practices that violate their religion-based moral convictions. That is why Geneva College, with the aid of the Alliance Defense Fund filed the lawsuit, Geneva College v. Sebelius, in federal court in Pittsburgh, PA on February 21st.
Our Board of Trustees Policy Manual says this:
“Geneva College publicly professes that Jesus Christ is the ruler of all institutions. Should it develop that federal and/or state laws or regulations are deemed to require the College to act in a way inconsistent with the Word of God, the Board of Trustees will actively seek to challenge such laws or regulations, and/or support a position of dissent, such as the College took in response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.”
Our lawsuit challenges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ regulations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that mandate religious employers like Geneva provide abortion-inducing drugs through the health insurance we provide to our employees and students. The mandate also forces the college to fund government-dictated speech in the form of counseling that is directly at odds with the religious message we wish to convey to our students and the broader culture. We believe this mandate is a violation of the freedoms of religion and speech guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and affirmed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Plan B and Ella Are Not Preventive
The technical aspects of the situation are simple. The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), which founded the college in 1848, holds the position that human life begins at conception. Geneva’s policies have long reflected the position of the church in that we have excluded coverage for elective abortions and abortion-inducing drugs from the insurance plans we provide to our employees and students. Preventive oral contraceptives are and will continue to be covered. But drugs such as Plan B and Ella, the “morning after” and “week after” pills respectively, are not fundamentally preventive; they function to prevent implantation or otherwise kill a human embryo. Thus, they violate our consciences and our long-standing practices in support of life. Yet the FDA has labeled them “contraceptives,” and the rules being promulgated by HHS require that they be covered by employer-provided health plans.
In the words of Greg Baylor, Senior Counsel for the ADF, “This mandate offers no choice. We either comply, and abandon our convictions, or resist and be punished. Geneva College and other employers who do not qualify as sufficiently religious under the federal government’s excruciatingly narrow definition of religious organizations, cannot freely abandon the mandate. Obamacare imposes exorbitant penalties on entities that would refuse to comply. These penalties would undermine Geneva College’s ability to pursue its religious mission.” The government cannot be allowed to force anyone to buy and sell insurance coverage that subsidizes the killing of young human beings. Nor can it be allowed to define what is considered religious belief or behavior. To grant it this power eviscerates the First Amendment.
Our freedom to exercise our religion is guaranteed by the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and further protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Our freedom of speech is secured by the free speech clause of the same amendment. Both our freedom of religion and our freedom of speech are violated by this government mandate. This is not a Roman Catholic issue. It is not a Reformed Presbyterian issue. Indeed, it threatens religious organizations and people of all faiths.
Geneva’s motto, Pro Christo et Patria, “for Christ and Country,” has never been understood to suggest two equal authorities. Rather, Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and we seek to educate students who are prepared to serve the country and society out of love for and obedience to Him. When the state stands in opposition to Christ, we must make our stand with and for Him. Our government should not be able to force us to buy or sell insurance that subsidizes morally objectionable treatments. If we do not contest this mandate, we believe that we would be responsible for allowing abortions to occur.
Greg Baylor concluded our joint press conference this way: “Every American should note that a government with the power to do this to Geneva College has the power to do anything to anybody.” Our elected officials swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, not distort and upend it. Thus, Geneva College and the Alliance Defense Fund are, by this lawsuit, exercising the final right granted in the First Amendment: “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” And we do so on behalf of the millions of Americans who still believe in the promises that we have inherited from the founders of this great nation.