BOLIVAR – Southwest Baptist University (SBU) president Pat Taylor was among at least five Southern Baptists who joined 148 Christian leaders to sign a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, registering their opposition to a federal mandate that requires many religious employers to provide health coverage for contraception and abortion-causing medication.
Other Southern Baptists joining Taylor were Joe Aguillard, president of Louisiana College; Richard Land, president of Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; David Dockery, president of Union University; and Lee G. Royce, president of Mississippi College.
The Obama administration has said it would be open to exempting churches, but that still leaves Christian institutions like SBU on the hook.
“Our organizations are involved in different areas of service,” the letter reads. “We belong to different faiths. But we are united in opposition to the creation in federal law of two classes of religious organizations: churches – considered sufficiently focused inward to merit an exemption … and faith-based service organizations – outwardly oriented and given a lesser degree of protection.”
The letter argues there should be no distinction before the law between the two “classes.”
“Both worship-oriented and service-oriented religious organizations are authentically and equally religious organizations. To use Christian terms, we owe God wholehearted and pure worship, to be sure, and yet we know also that ‘pure religion’ is ‘to look after orphans and widows in their distress.’ We deny that it is within the jurisdiction of the federal government to define, in place of religious communities, what constitutes true religion and authentic ministry … Among its many troublesome aspects, the scheme moves us further toward an unconstitutional, unhistorical, and unhealthy naked public square.”
The letter asks Secretary Sebelius to remove the two classes and exempt all religious organizations from the mandate.
“… Please restore the federal government’s full respect for faith-based education, social-service, and health organizations as authentic vehicles for service.”