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US Supreme Court completes oral arguments in non-profit abortion-pill mandate cases

“The government shouldn’t be allowed to force religious organizations to choose between providing life-destroying drugs and devices or paying massive, unsustainable penalties."
Published On: 10/18/2017
The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor regarding oral arguments just completed at the U.S. Supreme Court in the consolidated non-profit abortion-pill mandate cases, including the ADF cases Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell and Geneva College v. Burwell:

“The government shouldn’t be allowed to force religious organizations to choose between providing life-destroying drugs and devices or paying massive, unsustainable penalties. The government has many other ways to make sure women are able to obtain these drugs, but it has chosen the unlawful and unnecessary path of forcing people of faith to participate in acts that violate their deepest convictions. Thousands of businesses and organizations, like Pepsi and Exxon, are already exempt from the administration’s abortion-pill mandate for reasons that have nothing to do with religion, yet the government is targeting people of faith—forcing them to comply with an unjust edict that tears at the very heart of who they are. We hope the justices will agree that this injustice shouldn’t stand.” (#LetThemServe)

Statement of Dr. Everett Piper, president of ADF client Oklahoma Wesleyan University, from press conference at the Supreme Court on March 23, 2016:

My name is Everett Piper, and I am the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

The Wesleyan Church has stood firm for human freedom and the dignity of women since its inception some 150 years ago. I never imagined I would find myself at the Supreme Court, forced to defend the teachings of Christianity and our church that form the basis and core of Oklahoma Wesleyan University’s purpose and mission.

Oklahoma Wesleyan University has a history of standing up against injustice. One of the founders of the Wesleyan Methodist Church was Orange Scott, a passionate abolitionist. His example inspired our university’s current “Orange Movement,” an initiative we’ve launched to actively oppose and raise awareness of human trafficking, an epidemic that affects 8.4 million children globally. Over the past year, OKWU has adopted “Rahab House” in Southeast Asia, a safe house for 38 young girls who were victims of human trafficking.

Our commitment to affecting culture and actively standing up for what we believe and know to be right has now led us to the Supreme Court, asking for our basic constitutional freedom to be who we have always been.

If the government had wanted to, they could have set up plans on the state and federal health exchanges that would allow women to access these particular drugs and devices. In fact, there is nothing stopping the government from doing that even now.

Instead, the Obama administration has exempted billion-dollar corporations for reasons that have nothing to do with religion and is targeting Christian institutions like us, under threat of millions of dollars in crippling fines, to carry life-ending drugs like the week-after pill in our employee health insurance plans—against the beliefs and mission of our school and against the beliefs of the Oklahoma Wesleyan women who are eligible for these plans.

In attempting to force us to comply with an unjust edict that tears at the very heart of who we are, the government is attacking the very motivation that drives and inspires us to serve this next generation.

Oklahoma Wesleyan simply wants to continue to operate according to the faith-driven freedom it was founded on and the faith that still inspires us to serve our college students, our community and our world today. In a free and democratic society, we should be able to do so.

Statement of Millie Johnson, faculty member at ADF client Geneva College, from press conference at the Supreme Court on March 23, 2016:

Hello, I am Dr. Millie Johnson, a God-fearing woman and the associate professor of criminal justice at Geneva College. I chose to attend and work at Geneva College because it is founded on Jesus Christ and rooted and grounded in Christian principles. That is a foundation that I am most proud of.

As a Christian woman of freedom, I wear many hats. I am a minister of the Gospel and a former law enforcement officer with the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. I have carried the badge, and now I forever carry the Bible.

I have served in many different human and social service roles. These roles include client services advocate and driver with Choices Pregnancy Services. In this role, I have been blessed to stand with women who have had to make the difficult choice between life and death. In addition to my ministerial and professional roles in life, I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt and a niece.

As I give all the glory and honor to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I am most of all blessed and honored to stand before you on today to represent Geneva College in this fight for the sanctity of life.

Geneva College simply wants to continue to operate according to the faith it was founded on and the faith that still inspires the college to serve the community and the world today. For over a century and a half, Geneva has supported freedom as being a fundamental right to all people who are made in the image of God. Geneva was one of the first colleges to oppose slavery and to educate freed slaves and women.

Geneva College is committed to preserving freedom, and we live according to our God-ordained and constitutional right to not contribute to the mass genocide that is abortion. We support and preserve the sanctity of life.

As a college community, we should not be made to go against our deeply held religious convictions and be forced to provide abortion-inducing medications through our health-care plan. We do not want to be responsible for terminating life once it has been conceived.

The freedoms guaranteed under federal law and the First Amendment are civil rights. They are not special gifts that government can give or withhold when it chooses.

As a Christian College, Geneva should not be forced to go to the Supreme Court to plead for freedoms that every American is promised. We should have the right to peacefully operate according to our beliefs without fear of severe punishment by the government.

Geneva College stands strong on its Christian values, and we will fight to defend those values until the very end. It has been a pleasure to stand before you today. Thank you for listening, and may God continue to bless and protect you.

Statement of Elsa Spear, student at ADF client Geneva College, from press conference at the Supreme Court on March 23, 2016:

My name is Elsa Spear, and I am a junior at Geneva College. I am a committed Christian. My professors are committed Christians. Our faith is not limited to the privacy of our own lives, but it impacts every area of who we are. Our college’s motto, Pro Christo et Patria, makes it clear that we seek to serve Christ and our country, and our history shows that we as an organization were founded based on our faith, and that our faith has always influenced how we as an organization have acted.

My three years at Geneva have given me many wonderful opportunities to study, explore, and experience the world around me. One question that has become close to my heart during my time at Geneva is the question of what it means to be human. It is terrifyingly easy for people to dehumanize others, and we can see that in the way that people treat others who look, act, and believe differently than themselves.

I firmly believe that humanity begins at conception. The government is trying to force me and my college to act against that belief. The government is trying to force Geneva College to dehumanize an extremely vulnerable group of people, to force Geneva College to be a participant in what we believe is the intentional killing of these people. If my college does not comply, we will face millions of dollars in fines. The choice Geneva College faces—abandon your religious principles or undergo severe punishment—is a clear assault on religious freedom. There are other ways for women who choose to use abortion-inducing drugs to access them, but the government has chosen to force people and organizations whose faith guides every aspect of their lives to take actions that go against our peaceful and life-affirming beliefs.

Geneva College has always been a progressive school, dedicated to human freedom and flourishing. Geneva students helped end slavery, by assisting those who in captivity to freedom via the Underground Railroad. We were among the first in the nation to admit women into academic programs and employ them as faculty. Now, the students at Geneva are fighting sex-trafficking, serving those in tragic poverty in Western Pennsylvania, and partnering with Habitat for Humanity. We believe that all deserve life, and abundant life. Why? Because we love God, and we love our world. Is it just for our Geneva family to be facing crippling fines in the millions of dollars simply for being who we have always been?

Standing here today as a college student, woman, and millennial, I am deeply concerned about the future of freedom for my generation. My college and all of us who make up the Geneva family have a right to peacefully act according to our religious beliefs, and the government is seeking to withhold that right. This is what is at stake—not just for us, but for all Americans. At Geneva College, we strive to love, honor, and serve people as best we can and we strive to love, honor, and serve Christ as best we can. We should be allowed to continue.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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