Christianity,  Politics

Evangelicals and Catholics Together…in a Lawsuit

I think this is what Francis Schaeffer meant by co-belligerence, and the stakes have never been higher. In today’s Wall Street Journal the presidents of Wheaton College and the Catholic University of America penned an Op-Ed together announcing this:

The trustees of Wheaton College joined The Catholic University of America in filing a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services. They did so because the HHS mandate requiring the college to provide and subsidize insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs violates the conscience of the school and its members, and denies their First Amendment freedom of religion…

Our institutions do not agree on all points about HHS’s mandated services. The regulations require religious institutions (except churches) to guarantee coverage for all government-approved contraceptives. Wheaton College does not, as Catholics do, view all forms of artificial contraception as immoral.

But the list of required services includes “morning after” and “week after” pills that claim the life of an unborn child within days of its conception. During the period for public comment, Wheaton and many other evangelical colleges and universities objected that this requirement violated their belief in the sanctity of human life.

We must cherish life, not destroy it. This belief is shared by both campus communities. The Catholic Church’s unqualified defense of the unborn is too well known to need restatement. Wheaton’s commitment is equally firm.

The Presidents go on to explain what’s really at stake in this controversy:

Many Americans disagree with our shared belief in the immorality of abortion. That is their right. But there should be no dispute about a second point we hold in common: Religious schools like Wheaton College and Catholic University should have the freedom—guaranteed by the United States Constitution—to carry out our mission in a way that is consistent with our religious principles…

It is not just churches that have these religious rights, but all Americans who gather in voluntary association for distinctively religious purposes, such as Christian education…

A government that fails to heed the cries of its religious institutions undermines the supports of civil virtue and puts in jeopardy our constitutional order.

You wouldn’t know this from the media coverage of this issue over the past year, but this dispute really is about religious freedom. President Obama’s contraception mandate forces institutions to purchase health insurance programs that cover abortion-inducing drugs. In other words, it forces them to participate in something that their religion abhors. This is a violation of the first amendment, and it cannot stand.

The Obama administration has brought this controversy on itself by ignoring the pleas to provide a wider religious exemption from the mandate. Instead, for the last year the administration has been spinning this whole thing as an attempt by people of faith to prevent women from obtaining contraception. That is never what this has been about. It’s always been about government coercing religious objectors into paying for these services. No one’s arguing for a contraception ban. We just believe that the government cannot force Christians to purchase abortion-inducing drugs for their employees.

The President of Wheaton, Philip Ryken, did an interview with Christianity Today that puts it all into perspective. He makes it clear that Wheaton was in no way spoiling for a fight over this issue. Wheaton was hoping for this to be resolved quietly and without rancor. But now the Obama administration has forced Wheaton’s hand, and the college must act. President Ryken writes:

Wheaton College stands to face punitive fines already on January 1, 2013, and I am welcoming incoming freshmen in two weeks. It’s already an issue for us in terms of our health insurance and what we provide for this coming academic year. Although we wanted to wait for the Supreme Court decision out of respect for the legal system, we do not believe that we can wait any longer…

We are reluctant filers. We’ve been appealing to the government all year to provide an exemption for religious institutions— not merely churches, but other religious institutions. It’s our conviction that institutions like Wheaton College have religious freedoms too that ought to be protected by the United States Constitution. It’s very distressing to have to come to a point of actually filing a lawsuit on these issues. It’s a matter of strong conviction and our board is unanimous that this is the right step to take for Wheaton College. It’s certainly unprecedented for us to file a lawsuit against the government, and we’re doing it only as a last resort.

The controversy over the contraceptive mandate is not going away. There are people of faith across the country who have already committed themselves to civil disobedience if it comes to it. President Ryken himself is already speaking in terms of having to pay fines for non-compliance with the law. There will be many more like him.

The Obama administration has done a deft job of spinning this issue as if it were about Catholic hang-ups with contraception. But this is much bigger than that. When Protestants and Catholics alike have to start paying fines in order to practice their faith, I don’t think they’ll be able to spin it anymore. The government’s assault on religious liberty is about to be seen for what it is.

In one of his last public appearances, Chuck Colson issued a grave warning about the contraceptive mandate. He said this:

We have come to the point—I say this very soberly—when if there isn’t a dramatic change is circumstances, we as Christians may well be called upon to stand in civil disobedience against the actions of our own government. That would break my heart as a former Marine Captain loving my country, but I love my God more… I’ve made up my mind—sober as that decision would have to be—that I will stand for the Lord regardless of what my state tells me.

Colson has proven prophetic. We are almost there. Watch his full message below.


    • Denny Burk

      Great to hear from you, Dr. Vines. I had a great time visiting with you in NO as well!

      Before you start ribbing me about LSU, you should know that they were picked to win the conference again at the SEC media day yesterday. The Tide needs to be on high alert come Nov. 3!

  • Don Johnson

    As far as I can tell, Obama and his subordinates have given no indication that they even understand the issue that some believers have. This does not bode well at all. I am grateful there are believers who are going the way of Daniel.

  • MamaKelly

    Thank you for sharing this. This issue is about religious freedom. I’m so glad to see Christians joining in this fight. The media has spent so much time bashing Catholics, instead of looking at what we believe. They have spent too much time gushing over Obama, instead of reporting his twisted beliefs.

    Something else to note about this mandate, it establishes a $1 surcharge on premiums which would pay for those with elective-abortion policies.

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