After Obamacare required employers to cover contraception and some abortifacients in their health plans, religiously affiliated universities cried foul against this mandate and claimed the mandate violates religious freedom, said Dr. Allison Garrett, executive vice president of ACU.
As part of Obamacare, the U.S. Depart of Health and Human services mandated that employers’ health insurance must cover their employees’ contraception drug costs. The only organizations exempt from this coverage are churches.
Garrett was a witness in February at a congressional hearing that proposed the Obamacare mandate was crossing the line between Church and State. This was while Garrett was still Oklahoma Christian University’s senior vice president for academic affairs.
“The Catholics have taught for hundreds of years against contraception, so this is a religious liberty issue,” Garrett said. “Catholics religiously don’t believe in contraception, but the government is requiring Catholic organizations to pay for it.”
Garrett said covering contraception usually wouldn’t be a problem for evangelic or mainstream Protestant organizations. However, the mandate includes abortifacient drugs known as “morning-after” pills that sometimes work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Some Protestants and religious organizations are concerned this is equal to abortion.
“I have personal qualms with contributing to something I view as tantamount to abortion, and I think a lot of people would agree,” Garrett said. “The religious argument here is about whether people should be allowed to follow their conscience and whether employers should be required to offer a health plan that covers things they have religious objections to.”
According to the Huffington Post, 32 lawsuits are challenging this mandate from institutions such as Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., Wheaton College, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University.
Garrett said, “There has not been a lot of discussion about whether we will join in a lawsuit at this time, but there should be more clarity once these other lawsuits resolve.”
However, a revision was made that permits organizations to apply for a one-year exemption called a “safe harbor” where they do not have to comply with the contraceptive mandate.
Wendy Jones, director of human resources, said ACU was able to apply for the one-year safe harbor. Jones also said ACU is not currently preparing to enter a lawsuit. “Right now we are curious to see how the elections and pending lawsuits will play out.”