GLENSIDE, Pa., Jan. 7, 2014 – Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) and two co-plaintiffs have received a favorable ruling in a 46-page opinion from a federal court in Houston in their challenge to the so-called contraceptive mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act about providing access to abortifacient or abortion-inducing drugs and devices in their employees’ insurance plans.
Westminster Seminary in March 2013 joined a complaint filed by Houston Baptist University and East Texas Baptist University, represented by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty . According to The Becket Fund, the Houston court’s ruling Dec. 27 meant that nonprofit religious institutions had won injunctions in 9 of 12 cases, with 89 additional cases pending challenging the unconstitutional Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate.
Jim Sweet, Westminster Seminary General Counsel and Vice President for Institutional Advancement, said that these cases involving non-profits will probably make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which already is expected to hear a similar case involving for-profit companies in March.
“This is a victory for the sanctity of life and religious liberty,” said Dr. Peter Lillback, President of Westminster Seminary. “The federal government’s so-called ‘accommodation’ is in fact not an accommodation at all. It would mean requiring insurance companies or plan administrators to provide abortion-inducing products that violate our religious convictions.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, only churches and their “integrated auxiliaries” are considered “exempt” religious organizations. In an “accommodation” to other non-profit religious institutions, the government recently said they could “self-certify” to their insurers that they are religious organizations opposed to all abortifacients.
After self-certification, the insurer would be required to remove those drugs and devices from the organizations’ health plans and separately issue coverage to their employees that included access to those drugs and devices – at no cost to the employees.
“We took the position in our briefs and at oral argument that the requirement of self-certification itself was a violation of our religious freedom,” Sweet said. “The court agreed with us and held that the free exercise of our religious beliefs was ‘substantially burdened’ by this self-certification requirement.”
Prominent Houston litigator Ken Wynne, a member of Westminster’s board, represented the seminary on a pro bono basis.
Westminster Theological Seminary was founded in 1929. Its mission is to train Christian leaders to proclaim the whole counsel of God throughout a changing world. Through its world-class faculty and Reformed curriculum, it prepares pastor-scholars, theologians and men and women for other leadership roles for the global church in the 21st century. For additional information, visit http://www.wts.edu/