Houston Baptist University and East Texas Baptist University Raise Religious Freedom Restoration Act Defense In Federal Appeals Court

Robert B. Sloan Jr. (center, back), president of Houston Baptist University, with other supporters of HBU and East Texas Baptist University at a rally outside the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston. (Becket Fund Photo)
Robert B. Sloan Jr. (center, back), president of Houston Baptist University, with other supporters of HBU and East Texas Baptist University at a rally outside the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston. (Becket Fund Photo)

A lawyer representing two Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated Christian universities asked a federal appeals court to affirm a lower court ruling that mandated contraceptive coverage in employee insurance plans violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University won a case in December 2013 claiming an opt-out provision in Obamacare for qualifying religious nonprofits doesn’t adequately safeguard their religious liberty.

The federal government appealed the ruling, and lawyers on both sides argued the case before a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston.

Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said the universities don’t object to a requirement to notify the government they are opting out through a process called self-certification. But by doing so, they trigger a process by which their employees automatically get the objectionable services through a third-party administrator.

“Moral complicity” is a religious belief, not something to be decided by the courts, Rassbach asserted.

“That’s not the job we want courts to do,” he said. “We don’t want courts going around deciding who is morally complicit or not, from a religious point of view.”

United States District Judge Lee Rosenthal in Houston ruled Dec. 27, 2013, the contraceptive mandate violated rights of the universities guaranteed by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: The Baptist Standard
Bob Allen

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