Daily Dispatches
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
Associated Press/Photo by Jose Luis Magana
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Texas school files suit over HHS contraceptive mandate

Religious Liberty

Criswell College has sued the federal government, joining a growing number of faith-based schools and businesses objecting to the contraceptive mandate in what’s known as the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. 

The Dallas-based college accused the government of violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by forcing it to cover abortion-inducing drugs with its healthcare coverage. The complaint, filed Thursday by the Liberty Institute in U.S. District Court in Dallas, says the 2010 healthcare law “unconstitutionally coerces Criswell College to violate the Sixth Commandment under threat of heavy fines and penalties.”

Criswell President Jerry Johnson said the government requires the school to disregard deeply held beliefs: “We feel betrayed that the government is trying to use the force of the law to make us change our religious beliefs and practice by forcing us to fund the taking of innocent life.” 

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The primary defendant named in the complaint is Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who earlier this year said all employers would be required to provide contraceptive coverage—including abortifacients—with health insurance plans as of Aug. 1, with some religious organizations receiving a one-year extension. Churches and businesses with less than 50 employees are exempted, but other religious-affiliated institutions such as colleges and universities must comply with the mandate. 

In the complaint, Criswell notes its mission is to “provide biblical, theological, professional, and applied education on both the undergraduate and graduate levels, based on an institutional commitment to biblical inerrancy, in order to prepare men and women to serve in Christian ministries.” But because the school does not meet the government’s definition of a church, it is deemed “not religious enough,” and is not exempted from the mandate. 

Criswell, founded in 1970, is affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Other Baptist schools suing over the mandate include Houston Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University, and Louisiana College. 

Other major institutions that have filed suits include the University of Notre Dame, Wheaton College, Catholic University, and Biola University.

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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