BOLIVAR—The trustees of Southwest Baptist University (SBU) in their Feb. 21 meeting came out strongly against the Obama administration mandate that most religious employers must provide health care coverage for contraception and abortion pills, joining their colleagues at Hannibal-LaGrange University (HLGU) who voted similarly Feb. 10.
A member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), Colorado Christian University, is already involved in a lawsuit challenging the mandate. When Ava Maria University from Naples, Fla., filed suit Feb. 21, the total number of lawsuits filed against the policy grew to six, according to World News Service (WNS). The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing Colorado Christian and three of the other groups in the hope that it will help put the cases on a fast track to the U.S. Supreme Court, WNS reported.
SBU President C. Pat Taylor is one of 14 members on the CCCU Board of Directors, and while SBU is not joining the lawsuit at this time, its trustees are now on record as joining the CCCU in “total opposition” to the federal government’s action.
“This (mandate) is a clear violation of our constitutional right to practice our religion,” SBU President C. Pat Taylor said. “We must take this challenge to our freedom seriously, and we must join with our colleagues in the CCCU and our Catholic friends to do everything we can to combat this intrusion on our civil rights.”
The trustees in their letter of opposition to the mandate called it “an affront to our religious liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment. We stand in opposition to any governmental mandate that infringes on the fundamental rights or practicing our beliefs.”
At HLGU, the trustees expressed “total opposition” to the plan, calling it “an affront to our religious liberties. We strongly oppose any governmental edict that infringes on the fundamentals of our beliefs.”
Both SBU and HLGU participate in the group medical plan of GuideStone Financial Resources. Both universities are standing with GuideStone in an effort to have the mandate removed from the health plan. As the HLGU trustees pointed out, GuideStone’s group plan does not cover abortion, abortifacients, or emergency contraceptives, procedures, services or medication that would yield similar results.
Russell Martin, executive vice president and treasurer of the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, said the entity’s insurance broker is still researching the issue, which Martin said has “lots of fluidness.” There remains a high level of concern at the Children’s Home specifically as it would concern the mandate to pay for the morning-after pill.
“The idea that it’s not the employer but the insurance company providing it is just a ruse,” Martin said.
“There are so many Baptists in Missouri, if we raise our voices loud enough, we should be able to make someone take notice.”
Legislatively, the Missouri Senate has begun debate on a bill by Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, that is crafted to protect religious freedom. It has passed committee and has been sent to the full Senate for consideration at or around press time. And Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, weighed in on the matter, too, saying that Missouri already has a strong moral exemption on the books that was passed a number of years ago, Missourinet reported.
On Feb. 23, seven states filed a lawsuit in an attempt to reverse the rule, the Kansas City Star reported. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning led the effort. He was joined by colleagues from Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has yet to join the effort.