Biola filed a federal lawsuit in August to challenge a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that requires faith- based employers to provide insurance coverage for all government-approved contraceptive drugs — even those that might induce abortions — at no cost to employees regardless of religious or moral objections.
The suit, filed jointly by Biola and Grace College and Seminary in Indiana, argues that the controversial regulation violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the First and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Biola’s primary concern with the mandate is the dangerous federal precedent it sets in narrowing constitutionally protected religious freedoms, President Barry H. Corey said. The regulation creates a full exemption for churches, but not for other faith-based organizations such as universities and hospitals — meaning they must either comply with the mandate, even if it violates doctrinal positions, or face substantial annual fines.
“For religious institutions like Biola, the most unsettling thing about the HHS mandate is its frightening, unprecedented narrowing of the category of those whose religious freedom is considered worthy of protection,” Corey said.
“It’s a narrowing that could impede our very ability to teach, grant degrees and function as a nationally ranked university in a manner consistent with our beliefs. Biola University is about as faith-driven and religiously oriented as a university can be. So if we don’t fall within the protective definitions of the ‘religious exemption,’ something is fundamentally wrong.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is offering free legal representation in the suit, which is one of more than two dozen other suits filed by religious colleges and organizations across the nation. Catholic organizations, which oppose all forms of contraception, have been particularly vocal in opposition to the mandate since it was announced last year. Part of Biola’s motivation in filing suit is to demonstrate that the mandate is not just a Catholic issue, Corey said.
Under the mandate, religious institutions must provide coverage for all government- approved contraceptives, including the “morning after” and “week after” pills, which are considered by many to be abortifacient. Biola does not cover these drugs through its insurance plans.
“Every American should be free to live and do business according to their faith. The state shouldn’t punish people of faith for making decisions consistent with that faith,” said Gregory S. Baylor, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. “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.”
For more information, view a press release about the lawsuit from Alliance Defending Freedom, as well as Biola’s responses to Frequently Asked Questions and a video statement from Biola President Barry H. Corey.