Earlier this summer, Dordt College signed its name to a list of 149 Christian colleges, churches, outreaches, and magazines protesting a recent mandate in national health insurance policy. The policy guarantees all women access to free pills, often believed to cause early embryonic abortion.
According to the new policy, institutions with at least 150 employees are required to provide healthcare that offers birth control and contraceptive pills such as “the morning after” pill to employees free of charge. The policy, as released on whitehouse.gov, “exempts churches, other houses of worship, and similar organizations from covering contraception on the basis of their religious objections.” Religious colleges or other institutions, however, are not exempt.
Whitehouse.gov announced on February 10, 2012 that an “accommodation” for these institutions would be made: institutions with Christian beliefs would not be required “to provide, pay for or refer for contraception coverage,” but employees would still be able to receive these free products directly from their insurance policy.
As a religious institution, Dordt receives the “contraception mandate accommodation,” but the accommodation was not found acceptable by most religious colleges.
“Its fundamental flaw is that the accommodation creates a two-tiered system of religious organizations—those which are deemed ‘more’ religious and are therefore exempted, and those which are deemed ‘less’ religious and are therefore only accommodated. The act of creating this distinction is unconstitutional,” said Paul Corts, president of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).
Dordt’s own objection also takes issue with the two-tiered system. The letter takes issue with the accommodation because “only churches are accorded full protection of religious freedom.”
Other Christian organizations taking this stance include Christianity Today, Wheaton College, The Navigators, and other faith based groups, according to Dordt’s press release.
“What I resent is being forced into this predicament. I think Americans should be free to choose their own health care,” said Dr. Mary Dengler of the Dordt College English department. “We shouldn’t have to ask for an exemption. The college should be able to decide which plan they want and not have to ask for special favors. “
Dordt College also objected that the policy infringed upon Dordt’s mission. The statement explained that its purpose was “to give young people an education that is Christian, not merely in the sense that devotional exercises are appended to the ordinary work of the college, but in the larger and deeper sense that all the class work, all the students’ intellectual, emotional, and imaginative activities shall be permeated with the spirit and teaching of Christianity.” Removing Dordt’s ability to practice Christian action in its own financial affairs would remove Dordt’s constitutional right to carry out its religious mission.
Whitehouse.gov describes the “contraception mandate” in a positive light, insisting that no religious boundaries are crossed and that “this new law will save money for millions of Americans and ensure that Americans nationwide get the high-quality care they need to stay healthy.” The government’s statement online also said that “covering contraception is cost neutral since it saves money by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services.”
As of June 20, four Christian colleges have filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the CCCU. These colleges include Colorado Christian University, Geneva College, Louisiana College, and Franciscan College.
Should the mandate not be revised after its year-long transitional period, many Christian colleges would be either forced to provide debatable healthcare or suffer civil disobedience suits.
More information on the Contraception Mandate can be found on CCCU.org and whitehouse.gov.
Danielle Richards, Staff Writer