UPDATE (Friday, Mar. 15):
Nursing professor Susan Elliott travelled to Capitol Hill this month for a national press conference on nurses' right to practice their conscience as well as promote the new bill, the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, that would secure that right. Elliott attended at the invitation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops due to her credentials and as a nursing representative from a plaintiff university in the HHS case.
Read Elliott's quotes in the Washington Times' article "GOP bill exempts religious nonprofits, business owners from contraception mandate," or National Catholic Reporter's article "Conscience-protection bill for HHS mandate introduced in House" covering the press conference.
UPDATE (Wednesday, Feb. 6):
On Feb. 1, the Obama administration released a proposed regulation regarding religious organizations and the HHS preventive services mandate, which, among other things, requires faith-based employers such as Biola University to cover (without cost sharing) abortifacient drugs and related counseling in their employee group health plans, even if they object on moral and religious grounds.
This proposed regulation attempts to expand the definition of a “religious employer” for purposes of exemption from the mandate; however, the religious exemption remains extremely narrow and is applicable only to churches and their integrated subsidiaries. Therefore, Biola and other similar religious organizations do not qualify for this unprecedentedly narrow exemption. It was disappointing news to us and our fellow faith-based Christian colleges and universities around the nation.
Rather than providing a more reasonable religious exemption as is the case in other federal laws and regulations, the administration has proposed an “accommodation” to non-exempt, non-profit religious employers with religious objections to the mandate. This proposed accommodation is also unsatisfactory in that it would allow only non-profit religious organizations (if they qualify as “eligible organizations”) to exclude coverage for objectionable contraceptives and services from their employee health plans while still requiring that these contraceptives and services be made available to their employees at no cost. The accommodation merely attempts to shift the cost of the objectionable coverage from the employer to the employer’s insurance company (or the third-party administrator of a self-insured plan) at no cost to the employer.
Furthermore, the proposed rule does nothing to address the rights of individual American citizens and business owners who object to providing abortifacient drugs on sincerely held religious grounds. This proposed amendment continues to violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the First and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. We continue to stand in unity with these citizens and likeminded religious groups in opposing the mandate and this proposed rule.
In the pending litigation between Biola and HHS (and other governmental agencies), the government has filed a "motion to dismiss" our case based on its assertion that Biola has not yet been harmed or damaged by the mandate and, thus, the case is not "ripe" to be heard by the court. We are still awaiting a decision from the court in our case. It is likely that if Biola's lawsuit is dismissed, we would have the opportunity to appeal the decision or refile the case at a later time if the "accommodation" rules are not satisfactory.
Biola University will express its concerns to the HHS on the proposed rule during the open comment period through April 5, 2013. A final HHS rule is to be issued by Aug. 1, 2013.
Jerry D. Mackey, Biola University Legal Counsel
UPDATE (Friday, Dec. 7):
The Department of Justice filed its response to Biola’s lawsuit on Nov. 9. As expected, the Department of Justice brought a motion to dismiss the complaint — as it has in all of the other cases filed by non-profit religious institutions like Biola — on the basis that the suit is premature because Biola has not yet suffered damages by the HHS contraceptive mandate.
Biola's opposition to this motion was filed with the court today and the court will set a date for a hearing on this matter.
Aug. 23, 2012
Biola University today joined a federal lawsuit to challenge the Obama administration’s unconstitutional mandate that faith-based employers provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs at no cost to employees regardless of religious or moral objections.
Filed by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys on behalf of Biola and Grace College and Seminary in Indiana, the lawsuit is the latest to challenge the controversial mandate established by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Affordable Care Act.
“The Obama administration’s mandate forces us to act against our own doctrinal statement, which upholds the sanctity of human life,” said Biola University President Barry H. Corey. “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.”
The new lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Grace Schools v. Sebelius, argues that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the First and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Greg Baylor serves as lead attorney. Attorney Jane Dall Wilson of Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP, in Indianapolis is local counsel in the case. Biola University Legal Counsel Jerry Mackey is also participating in the case.
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.
For media inquiries, please contact Alliance Defending Freedom at (480) 444-0020 or www.adfmedia.org/home/contact.
About Biola University
Biola University, named one of 17 “up and coming” national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2011, is a private Christian university located in Southern California. For more than 100 years, Biola has remained committed to its mission of biblically centered education, integrating biblical principles with every academic program. With a current record-high enrollment of 6,250 students, the university’s six schools offer 145 academic programs, ranging from the B.A. to the Ph.D. Read more about Biola's national distinctives.