WASHINGTON (BP) — The Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate forces Christians to violate either their religious beliefs or the government’s rules, Southern Baptist entities have told the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Jan. 11, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the International Mission Board and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — as well as Southern’s president, R. Albert Mohler Jr. — urged the high court to rule the controversial, federal regulation infringes religious freedom.
The abortion/contraception mandate — issued in support of the 2010 health care reform law — requires employers to provide for their workers not only contraceptives but drugs and devices that can potentially cause abortions. Debilitating fines face those who refuse to abide by the requirement.
The Supreme Court has consolidated seven cases involving a variety of religious, nonprofit organizations that have challenged the requirement but lost at the appeals court level. Among the challengers are several Southern Baptist institutions, including GuideStone Financial Resources.
The justices have yet to schedule oral arguments in the combined case, which is consolidated under the title Zubik v. Burwell, but they likely will hear them in March or possibly April. The court is expected to issue its opinion before its term ends, which normally is in late June.
The case, ERLC President Russell Moore said, will be “pivotal in maintaining soul freedom for all people.”
The abortion/contraception mandate violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), according to the brief. RFRA requires the government to have a compelling interest and to use the least restrictive means to burden a person’s religious exercise. The Supreme Court has agreed to rule on whether the mandate violates RFRA.
GuideStone is exempt from the mandate and accompanying fines, but it serves ministries that face hefty penalties for failure to obey the rule.