The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention signed on to an amicus brief this week, requesting a federal appeals court reverse the dismissal of the the lawsuits against the HHS. Those lawsuits were filed by Belmont Abbey College and Wheaton College.
Opposition to the HHS mandate has been characterized as a Catholic Issue, but the president of the ERLC, Richard Land, said:
This particular case is vitally important both because of the nature of the appeal concerning a very narrow definition the government is following for religious employers and secondly because of who is involved in the suit. One of the most prestigious evangelical colleges in the world in Wheaton College — of which Billy Graham is a graduate -– is one of the participants in the suit, which demonstrates this is not ‘just’ a Catholic issue, but it is an issue of religious freedom across the board for all people of faith — Protestant, Catholic and otherwise.
The amicus brief notes that the definition of “religious employer” in the HHS mandate is narrower than that in federal law, and therefore violates both the free exercise and establishment clauses of the first Amendment. The brief also notes that the HHS mandate violates the the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits the federal government from burdening religious free exercise unless it has a “compelling interest” and uses “the least restrictive means” in advancing that interest.
Additionally, the HHS mandate contradicts longstanding conscience protections in the abortion arena. Since 1973, Congress has protected the conscience rights of both institutions and health care workers that objected to participating in abortions or sterilization. Congress also has banned most federal funding of abortion.
Other organizations signed the same brief as the ERLC, including the Christian Medical Association, Prison Fellowship, National Association of Evangelicals, Patrick Henry College, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, Association of Christian Schools International and Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance.
Others have also filed amicus briefs in support of Belmont Abbey and Wheaton, including: The states of Texas, Nebraska, Michigan, Indiana, Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, Ohio, Georgia, Virginia, Colorado, South Carolina and Idaho, the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the American Center for Law and Justice and Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., the Catholic University of America, the archbishop and Catholic Charities, both of the Washington, D.C., archdiocese, and Eagle Forum.