The Obama administration’s mandate that seeks to coerce Ave Maria University to cooperate with its scheme to make abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and other contraceptive services available to employees under our employer-provided health plan, is unconstitutional and a violation of Federal law, and today we are suing to prevent its enforcement.
By way of background, Ave Maria University originally filed a lawsuit in Federal Court on February 21, 2012, and on March 29, 2013 our case was dismissed by the Court because the proposed administrative rules were not in final form. In its dismissal order the Court relied on the Federal government’s promise that “that they are in the process of amending the challenged regulations to accommodate religious concerns.” Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, no material accommodation was made when the final rules were released in late June. That is why Ave Maria University is back in Court.
The Obama administration seems hell-bent on denying faith-based organizations their rights of conscience and religious freedom.
The exemption the final regulations provide for faith-based organizations is insultingly narrow and without precedent. No Republican or Democratic president in memory ever sought to attack religious freedom in this fashion through such a narrow definition of what constitutes a religious organization. And the fines with which the Obama administration threatens to compel Ave Maria’s compliance – $100 per day, per beneficiary, totally as much as $7 million in fines annually – seem to have the intended effect of forcing us to choose to either violate our religious beliefs or face bankruptcy. Ave Maria University will not violate its core religious beliefs, wash our hands like Pontius Pilate, and surrender to the Obama administration’s coercive mandate. We want our day in Court.
In America there are not so-called blue universities and red universities. The pursuit of truth and knowledge is not a political exercise. So when institutions of higher learning, including religiously-affiliated ones, are used as pawns to propagate political dogma, academic freedom is endangered. Reasonable people can disagree as to the extent to which the Federal government may force employers to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and other contraceptive services in its health plans. But I think most Americans would be in agreement that the sincerely held religious beliefs of groups like Ave Maria University should be respected and protected and that such organizations should not be coerced to comply. We are proud to devote $1.3 million annually to underwrite the majority of the costs of employee health insurance, and we will continue to do so while we litigate.
Our University may be young and small, but our rights under the U.S. Constitution and Federal law are venerable and strong. We are confident that we will prevail in Court. With the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s legal representation, Ave Maria University looks forward to a judicial determination on the merits of our case.