WASHINGTON – On Jan. 11, the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of five member institutions that are challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive and abortifacient mandate for their employee and student healthcare plans.
“Many of our members, including the five involved in this case, have been concerned about the mandate since it was first released in 2011. The CCCU has continually advocated that the administration should expand its exemption to protect the rights of our institutions, which do not currently qualify for exemption despite their sincerely held religious beliefs,” said CCCU President Shirley V. Hoogstra. “Since the administration has refused to do so, our hope is that the Supreme Court will require them to.”
In November, the Court agreed to hear an appeal from several religious nonprofit organizations challenging the contraceptive and abortifacient mandate. Seven cases were consolidated, including one from East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University, another from Oklahoma Baptist University and Southern Nazarene University, and a third from Geneva College.
In June 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the final rules of the mandate, which included guidelines for an exemption for certain religious organizations and an accommodation to others. The exemption is only for “churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions of associations of churches,” which excludes a majority of religious schools, nonprofits, hospitals and other organizations.
The accommodation allows organizations to notify its insurers that they object to the mandated contraceptive services. The insurers will then make the payments for these services to the employees, thus failing to address the religious concerns the mandate creates for religious organizations because it does not remove them from the provision of the services altogether.
“The government’s distinction between which religious organizations are exempt and which are administratively accommodated is arbitrary and unnecessary for the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act,” the CCCU argued in its brief. “The government’s interests will not be frustrated by exempting [CCCU members] (and other similar religious organizations) from complying with the contraceptive mandate.”
The CCCU has previously filed amicus briefs in all three cases: one on Aug. 10 for ETBU and HBU; one on Aug. 26 for OBU and SNU; and one on Sept. 11 for Geneva College.
Other organizations involved in the case include the Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. The cases will be heard at some point in the session that begins on March 21 and will likely be referred to as Zubik v. Burwell. A decision in the case is likely in June 2016.
A total of 19 CCCU institutions have filed lawsuits related to the mandate: Asbury Theological Seminary; Biola University; College of the Ozarks; Colorado Christian University; Cornerstone University; Crown College; Dordt College; East Texas Baptist University; Franciscan University of Steubenville; Geneva College; Grace College; Houston Baptist University; Indiana Wesleyan University; Louisiana College; Oklahoma Baptist University; Simpson University; Southern Nazarene University; Taylor University; and Wheaton College. In addition to the three briefs filed in August and September, the CCCU has previously sent comments, letters, and amicus briefs connected to the HHS mandate on seven occasions: October 2014, January 2014, April 2013, June 2012, March 2012, December 2011, and October 2011.
Read the Jan. 11, 2016 amicus brief here.
The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is a higher education association of 179 Christian institutions around the world. The 118 member campuses in North America are all regionally accredited, comprehensive colleges and universities with curricula rooted in the arts and sciences and whose missions are Christ-centered and rooted in the historic Christian faith. In addition, 61 affiliate campuses from 20 countries are part of the CCCU. The CCCU’s mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth. Visit www.cccu.org.
The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities offers 10 off-campus study programs, collectively branded BestSemester®, which expand learning opportunities for students from CCCU campuses and are designated as culture-shaping or culture-crossing programs. Culture-shaping BestSemester programs are: American Studies Program (Washington, D.C.), Contemporary Music Center (Nashville) and Los Angeles Film Studies Center (Los Angeles). Culture-crossing BestSemester programs are: Australia Studies Centre, China Studies Program, Latin American Studies Program, Middle East Studies Program, Oxford Summer Programme, Scholars’ Semester in Oxford and Uganda Studies Program. Visit www.bestsemester.com for program details.