Biola enters federal lawsuit, religious freedom at stake

Reporter Sarah Jean Seman

Biola University is fighting a federally mandated legislation which, according to University President Dr. Barry Corey, goes against the school’s theology of the sanctity of life. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the Health and Human Services mandate which requires all non-religious institutions to provide free contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs to employees. The HHS mandate was upheld by the Supreme Court on June 28 within President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The four-pronged test used to define “religious organizations” excludes Biola University along with many other religiously tied institutions such as Compassion International, Campus Crusade for Christ and the Billy Graham Association.

“At the heart of this issue is religious freedom,” Corey stated at an open forum with the Biola community on Wednesday.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal ministry which has been championing for religious freedom since 1994, is representing Biola with no charge to the institution. The case, known as Grace Schools v. Sebelius et al., is filed in partnership with Grace College and Seminary located in Indiana. This merger allows the issue to be weighed in the 7th circuit court of Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin rather than historically liberal 9th circuit court, which claims jurisdiction in Southern California.

If Biola does not receive exemption for the mandate it will be forced to act contrary to its ideologies and to make a yearly investment of $1.7 million in the supplementation of abortion-related drugs, according to Corey. Refusal to comply could result in a fine of $100 dollars per employee per day.

“That’s a good way to pay off the federal debt, to start charging institutions $31 million dollars a year,” Stan Jantz, Biola board of trustees chair, said at the forum.

This is the twenty-sixth case by a private institution to file such a lawsuit. Filing the case started, what senior attorney of the case, Greg Baylor described as a “sixty day clock” in which the government can act. Baylor expects the government will not act until the sixtieth day, which falls somewhere around Nov. 10.

Past lawsuits, including that of Wheaton College, have been overlooked because of what the court alludes to as the safe-harbor provision. This allows for a one-year dismissal of the mandate’s enforcement and its alleged adjustment. Baylor believes that because Grace Schools v. Sebelius et. al. was filed at a later date (August 23) there be a different outcome.

“It is possible that political developments will have an impact on this lawsuit,” Baylor stated.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has promised to repeal Obamacare if elected to office. Despite the eminence of the presidential election, Corey described the move to be politically neutral.

“Biola has not ever postured itself as a politically partisan organization that we see this as a democratic or republican issue,” Corey said, “we see this as biblical issue and ultimately as an issue of religious freedom that we feel could compromise our own mission if you carry this over to other areas.”

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