Geneva College fights back to protect conscience rights

Showing no regard for the First Amendment, President Obama continues to stand his ground on the abortion pill mandate he imposed on all Americans on Feb. 10. The mandate requires all employers with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance coverage to their employees that includes “preventive services,” which the Obama administration defines to include ”contraceptive” drugs, abortion drugs, and sterilization, along with education and counseling for the same—all of which must be provided free of charge. ObamaCare’s requirement that every American buy government-mandated coverage will ensure that no religious person or institution will go untrampled in the President’s rush to line Planned Parenthood’s pockets and eliminate all consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior.

Because the mandate makes no tangible allowance for the religious freedom of entities and individuals, including Christian ministries, schools, adoption services, soup kitchens and other social service providers, rights of conscience are now clearly in Obama’s crosshairs. And outside of civilly disobeying the mandate and writing their 21st century “Letters from a Birmingham Jail” — which many, including prominent Evangelical and Catholic faith leaders, promise to do if necessary — some are turning to another First Amendment right, “the Right to Petition the government for a redress of grievances” through the courts, as the only remaining recourse to protect our precious liberty of conscience and avoid compliance with this Draconian measure.

To that end, the Alliance Defense Fund is representing Geneva College in a federal lawsuit challenging the ObamaCare mandate. The suit argues that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and seeks a ruling that the mandate also violates the First Amendment rights of the college and similar faith-based or church-related groups and an injunction exempting the school from having to comply with the rule.

In order to find a comparable degree of government overreach in American history, one has to go all the way back to King George III. As the colonists, in what King George called “the Presbyterian Revolt,” responded to their earthly king with chants of “No king but King Jesus,” so too the president of this Presbyterian college, Ken Smith of Geneva, has said, “At Geneva College, we have only one Lord, and he does not live in Washington, D.C.”

Smith continues:

The First Amendment protects Americans from mandates that require us to act against our own convictions. We find the mandate to provide our faculty, staff, and students with insurance that provides pills to abort babies totally abhorrent and unacceptable. The government shouldn’t be able to force anyone to buy or sell insurance that subsidizes morally objectionable treatments.

While Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s Health and Human Services secretary, does not comment on litigation, her office has taken the position that the mandate does not represent a First Amendment violation:

The Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion is not violated by a law that is not specifically targeted at religiously motivated conduct and that applies equally to conduct without regard to whether it is religiously motivated — a so-called neutral law of general applicability.

Somehow Sebelius has missed the fact refusing to use birth control, abortion-inducing drugs, or have abortions for religious reasons are all examples of “religiously motivated conduct.”

And the Secretary of Health had better sit up and take notice of a federal court decision, issued Feb. 22, holding that the Washington State Board of Pharmacy cannot punish conscientious pharmacies and pharmacists from refusing to stock and dispense Plan B and other life-inhibiting and life-destroying drugs. Such rules, the court said, can’t be said to be “apply equally” when bureaucrats issue waivers and exceptions to them at a whim – a characteristic shared by both the Washington pharmacy board and ObamaCare, which has issued thousands of arbitrary “waivers” to companies such as McDonalds from having to comply but refuses to recognize requests for waivers based on religious faith. The federal court said:

The Board of Pharmacy’s 2007 rules are not neutral, and they are not generally applicable. They were designed instead to force religious objectors to dispense Plan B, and they sought to do so despite the fact that refusals to deliver for all sorts of secular reasons were permitted. The rules are unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiffs.

To that, leaders like Geneva’s President Smith, Catholic Cardinal Tim Dolan and Evangelical leader Rick Warren can unite in a hearty, “Amen!”


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