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Dordt College News

Dordt College protests narrow definition of religious freedom

October 24, 2013

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services on Oct. 23, 2013, on behalf of Dordt College in Iowa and Cornerstone University in Michigan.

The lawsuit challenges the administration’s mandate that requires employers, regardless of their religious convictions and under threat of heavy penalties, to provide insurance coverage for pills and procedures that many Christians oppose. The two colleges also object to the government’s claim that they are not inherently religious institutions with their own fundamental right to religious freedom.

“Dordt College and similar faith-based institutions deserve protection under the law," said Dordt College President Erik Hoekstra. "At Dordt, everything we do is 'permeated with the spirit and teaching of Christianity,' as our founders proclaimed. While we don’t live that out perfectly, it is our aim to do so faithfully and consistently. Thus, we strongly object to having Christian colleges put in a different class of religious organizations with limited religious freedoms.”

The lawsuit, Dordt College v. Sebelius, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, argues that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the First and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

“With full knowledge that many religious organizations hold the same or similar beliefs, the Defendants issued regulations that…trample on the freedom of the Schools and millions of other American organizations and individuals to abide by their religious convictions,” the lawsuit states, adding that the mandate “illegally and unconstitutionally coerces the Schools to violate” those imperatives “under threat of heavy fines and penalties.”

The lawsuit also points out that “the government has provided thousands of exemptions…for various groups, such as large corporations, but refuses to exempt most religious groups from this unprecedented Mandate. Moreover, the Mandate does not apply to countless ‘grandfathered’ employer group health plans, through which millions of American women receive health insurance coverage, belying any contention that the Mandate advances some compelling government interest.”

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys are also litigating 14 other lawsuits against the mandate. The lawsuits represent a large cross-section of Protestants and Catholics.

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