November 2, 2012
NAE Sides with Wheaton and Belmont Abbey on HHS Mandate
The federal health reform legislation mandates that all employer-provided health insurance plans offer preventive care services. These services included contraception and drugs that some believe lead to abortions. While the Obama administration offered an exemption for religious employers, the criteria for qualifying for the exemption are narrow: 1) have inculcation of religious values as its primary purpose; 2) primarily employ members of its own faith; 3) serve primarily members of its own faith; and 4) be registered under the Internal Revenue Code as a church.

Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College do not meet the criteria, and therefore, filed a joint lawsuit challenging the mandate. The suit was dismissed, because the administration has promised to address the religious liberty problem sometime in 2013. Wheaton and Belmont have appealed because there is no guarantee that the schools will be able to provide health insurance policies that are consistent with their religious teachings.

The National Association of Evangelicals joined with a broad coalition of religious institutions in an amici curiae brief in Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College v. Kathleen Sebelius. The brief argues that by defining a religious employer as one that primarily serves members of its own faith, it excludes numerous religious charities and colleges whose faith motivates them to serve people outside their faith community. This narrow definition of religious employer also sets a precedent that may be used to further restrict religious freedom in the future.

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