Louisiana College — affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention — filed suit Monday (Feb. 20) in federal court, saying the mandate violates the U.S. Constitution by, among other things, entangling the government in religious matters and forcing the college to violate its “sincerely held religious beliefs regarding abortion.” The convention is part of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“The time for silence is over,” Louisiana College President Joe W. Aguillard said. “Louisiana College will not sit by and allow this or any government to usurp our God-given religious freedoms and our time-honored Baptist heritage.”
The Alliance Defense Fund is representing the school.
As part of the new national health care law, employers are required to offer health insurance plans that cover free contraceptives, including ones that can cause chemical abortions. Most churches are exempt, but Louisiana College is not a church, and the compromise that President Obama presented at a news conference is insufficient, the suit says.
“LC is being deprived of its constitutional and statutory rights, including the free exercise of religion, free speech, and due process,” the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, states. “… LC cannot provide health care insurance covering abortion, abortifacient or embryo-endangering methods, or related education and counseling without violating its deeply held religious beliefs and its Christian witness.”
Louisiana College is one of at least five religiously affiliated universities that have now filed suit. Only two are Catholic. ADF is representing Geneva College — a school affiliated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America — in a similar suit. Meanwhile, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has filed suit against the government on behalf of Belmont Abbey College (a Catholic school), Ave Maria University (Catholic) and Colorado Christian University (non-denominational).
Among the FDA-approved contraceptives that must be covered are Plan B and “ella,” each of which can work after fertilization and before implantation. In fact, pro-life groups say ella can work after implantation by destroying the placenta that provides nutrition to the embryo, thus killing it.
President Obama tried to calm the controversy among religious groups Feb. 10 when he said religious organizations would not have to pay for or provide contraceptives. Instead, he said, the insurance companies would be required to pay for such services.
Louisiana College, though, says it was no compromise, partially because the compromise does not yet exist in any federal rules.
“It is entirely fictitious,” the suit said.
But even if the Obama proposal is written into law, it still violates religious liberty, the suit says, because the contraceptive/abortion coverage apparently would not be “separate from the employer's plan.” The suit says the compromise still would:
— force the college “to directly facilitate objectionable coverage by providing and paying for a plan that is itself necessary for the employee to obtain the coverage in question.”
— force the insurance company — which would need to fund the “free” contraceptives — to pass on the costs by hiking premiums.
The suit notes that Louisiana College's doctrinal statement is pro-life and states: “We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.” As part of its pro-life commitment, the college has “ensured that its insurance policies do not cover drugs, devices, services or procedures inconsistent with its faith.”
Contrary to what some have suggested, the suit says, the college cannot simply drop insurance coverage for its employees because it would face government fines, perhaps as much as $2,000 per employee per year.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Read the lawsuit online: http://www.adfmedia.org/files/LouisianaCollegeComplaint.pdf.