GuideStone Financial Resources and the ministries it serves must abide by the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate or pay crushing fines, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday (July 14).
A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver declined to grant an injunction blocking enforcement of the rule, rejecting arguments by GuideStone and a host of other religious non-profit organizations that the controversial mandate and its accommodation for such entities violate their religious freedom. The mandate requires employers to provide not only contraceptives for their workers but drugs and devices that can potentially cause abortions.
GuideStone — the Southern Baptist Convention’s health and financial benefits entity — and its attorneys are considering an appeal to the full 10th Circuit Court or to the U.S. Supreme Court, it said in a news release.
The decision is “a setback” but “not the final outcome,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said in the release.
“This is a disappointing decision, for both religious liberty and for the sanctity of life,” Hawkins said. “This is a day for all of us to bombard the Throne of Grace with petitions for a favorable outcome on appeal, for strength of resolve, for the unborn in this country and for all of our leaders, so many of whom have turned their back on the founding principles of this country.”
SBC President Ronnie Floyd joined Hawkins in calling for prayerful determination.
“This decision shows the deep need for us not just to pray, but to further resolve together that we will go forward standing for religious liberty and for the sanctity of human life unrelentingly,” Floyd said in comments for Baptist Press. “May God give to Dr. O.S. Hawkins, to GuideStone, and to others, the wisdom and strength to do what is necessary to continue in this worthy pursuit.”
SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page said, “We join with Dr. O.S. Hawkins and the trustees and staff of GuideStone in expressing our deep displeasure at this ruling. It is a sad day when the government refuses to recognize the heartfelt beliefs and conscience of God’s people. It is indicative of the overreach of our judicial system which has become customary in the 21st-century. We will not give up this fight.”
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), called it a disappointing ruling “that reveals the instincts of a state-established religion — one that seeks to use the law as a means to steamroll the conscience and stamp out opposition. This decision forces a choice between obedience to God and compliance with the regulatory state. We must stand with conscience.”
The 10th Circuit opinion came in three combined cases that included not only GuideStone as a party but two Southern Baptist-affiliated schools — Truett-McConnell College in Georgia and Oklahoma Baptist University — and Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic order of nuns in Denver.
The loss by GuideStone and its allies is the latest in a series of defeats at the federal appellate level for religious organizations that object to the abortion/contraception mandate. In other recent rulings:
— The Seventh Circuit Court refused July 1 to grant Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian school in suburban Chicago, an injunction against the rule while its case proceeds.
— The Fifth Circuit Court declined June 22 a request for an injunction from two Southern Baptist-affiliated schools — East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University — and Westminster Theological Seminary.
The Texas Baptist universities and Westminster Seminary have since appealed to the Supreme Court. Their July 8 petition brought to five the number of appeals to the high court in decisions against nonprofits.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press