President of East Texas Baptist University speaks out on HHS mandate

Kathryn Jean Lopez interviewed Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, the president of East Texas Baptist University, for National Review Online.  Last week, East Texas Baptist University sued the administration over the HHS mandate, joining over 100 other plaintiffs.  Mr. Oliver has a very interesting perspective about the issue, and the impact on religious liberty for all.

Oliver said:



The coverage of this issue has been overwhelmingly focused on Catholic concern with the contraceptive mandate.  But I must point out that this is not just a Catholic issue. While Protestants have different perspectives regarding contraception (both from Catholics and from each other), we are united with Catholics and people of all faiths in the conviction that a religious group should not be forced to provide services to which they have deep moral objections.  We believe that the federal government is obligated by the First Amendment to accommodate the religious convictions of faith-based organizations of all kinds, Catholic and non-Catholic.

When asked why he was going to court over this issue, Oliver answered:


We are going to court to defend religious liberty. We would rather not have to do so. There are many other ways that we would choose to spend our time and resources. However, the administration refuses to listen to our concerns or accommodate our religious views. Frankly, it is hard to believe that a religious institution has to take the Department of Health and Human Services to court to protect something guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

When asked whether the HHS mandate was a women’s health issue, Oliver replied:


This issue is not about women’s health. This is about whether the government can get away with trampling on the rights of religious organizations.  It’s ridiculous to claim that organizations like ETBU don’t care about women’s health. As far as I am aware, no religious group objects to most of the preventive services in the mandate. In fact, we already cover preventive services, including contraceptives, under our employee health plan. We simply object to a few drugs, which the government calls contraceptives, because we believe they cause abortions.  


This issue is not about women’s health; it is about religious liberty. It is about whether the government will force religious people and organizations to do something they believe is wrong. Good people everywhere want women to have access to quality health care. What we are asking is that our religious views be respected.

Oliver had an interesting comment about Roger Williams:

As you probably know, Roger Williams fled from Massachusetts and founded Rhode Island because his religious views were not tolerated in Massachusetts. This is one of the reasons Baptists are so sensitive to coercive government actions that infringe upon religious liberty.

LOPEZ: What do you wish every American voter might consider about your school, the situation it is in because of the HHS mandate, and religious liberty itself?

Oliver concluded: 

Think about it: If the government can take this step, where will this road end? Today, the administration is trying to force us to provide our employees with abortion-causing drugs. What’s next?


If the government can force Catholic monks to dispense birth control, what can’t the government do? If the government can decide that East Texas Baptist University is not religious enough to have the right to religious liberty, what can’t the government do? If this administration can just decide that religious beliefs are less important than its chosen policy goals, what can’t it do?


These questions are alarming. And that is why people from all across the country are joining together out of concern that this mandate threatens to erode one of our most precious rights, our religious liberty, guaranteed to us by the First Amendment.

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