JACKSON — Union University has joined other faith-based institutions in filing a federal lawsuit that challenges an order to provide abortion-causing drugs as part of employee health care plans.
The suit, filed April 4 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, seeks a judgment declaring that the abortifacient mandate of the Affordable Care Act violates Union University’s rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and the Administrative Procedures Act.
Until now, Union’s health care plans were not required to provide abortifacients under the new law because of a grandfather clause that allowed existing plans to continue unaltered.
But the Affordable Care Act also makes provision for that exemption to be rescinded if significant changes take place in the terms or the costs of the grandfathered policies. There are enough changes to this year’s Union University health insurance policies to trigger an end to the exemption. The Affordable Care Act mandates some of those changes.
“Causing the death of the embryo conflicts with Union University’s beliefs based on Scripture,” the Union lawsuit states. “Therefore, Union University has [a] religious-based objection to drugs and devices that kill the embryo and to education and counseling related to the use of these abortion-causing drugs and devices.”
The lawsuit also says the “mandate forces Union University to choose between its sincerely held religious beliefs and the government-imposed adverse consequences” of non-compliance.
When it became clear the exemption would be rescinded, Union leadership began consultations with university attorneys.
“I am grateful for the courageous action of Dr. Dockery and other leaders at Union to defend religious liberty and protect innocent life,” said President-Elect Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver.
Oliver’s current institution, East Texas Baptist University, along with Houston Baptist University and about 100 other plaintiffs have filed similar lawsuits in the past two years.
In December, a federal court in Houston ruled in favor of ETBU and HBU. The court issued an injunction against the abortifacient requirement, ruling that such a mandate violates federal civil rights laws.
“The religious organization plaintiffs have shown a sincerely held religious belief that the court cannot second-guess,” the ruling stated.
Union University provides employee health insurance through the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, a consortium of 34 public and private institutions.