SCHUYLKILL — Valley Forge Christian College has filed a federal lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that it provide health insurance which could include abortion services and the “Plan B” abortion pill.
The lawsuit, filed Aug. 6, indicates that the college was founded on and follows the teachings of the Assemblies of God denomination and that providing insurance plans that include the “abortion pill” would put the school at odds with its “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
“Valley Forge Christian College has no objection to providing coverage for contraceptive drugs which truly — and only — prevent conception and do not interfere with the continued survival of a human embryo,” the lawsuit argues.
“It is, however, Valley Forge Christian College’s sincerely held religious belief that it is forbidden, under religious principles and teachings, from providing, facilitating, counseling to use or assisting in the provision of any drugs or services that interfere with the survival of a human embryo, except to save the life of the mother,” according to the lawsuit.
The college also has a problem with the “accommodation” provisions of the Affordable Care Act designed to avoid this problem by allowing non-profits to “opt out” of providing contraceptives by employing a third-party administrator or insurer.
The lawsuit states the college “also opposes being associated with, participating indirectly with, or transferring any legal or moral authority by which a third party might enable the provision of such services to the employees of Valley Forge Christian College.”
The college, the lawsuit argues, considers it contrary to their teachings and beliefs, “to directly or indirectly provide potentially life-threatening drugs and/or devices that may harm or terminate a developing human embryo after conception.”
But not providing that service exposes the college to fines of $100 per day per beneficiary under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
It is this potential punishment which has put the college in this position, its lawyers have said.
“In its recent ‘Hobby Lobby’ decision, the Supreme Court of the United States made clear that citizens cannot be forced to choose between violating their faith and being punished by the government for following their faith,” Jeff Mateer, general counsel for Liberty Institute, said in a press release announcing the lawsuit.
Liberty Institute, a national non-profit legal group dedicated to issues of religious liberty, filed the suit along with attorneys from the local law firm of Maza, David and Hoeffel, on behalf of the college.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, named in the suit, referred questions to the U.S. Department of Justice, which did not return 21st Century Media requests for comment before deadline.
On Thursday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that “the Department of Justice, in a brief filed in connection with several cases similar to the college’s, said it expected the federal departments responsible for implementing the accommodation to issue an interim regulation soon to address the situation.”
The Inquirer also reported that “In Pennsylvania, three federal judges in Pittsburgh have sided with religious non-profits that challenged the contraception accommodation in cases brought by Geneva College, a Reformed Presbyterian school in Beaver Falls, and the Catholic Dioceses of Erie and Pittsburgh.”
“It is unlawful for our government to determine when a ministry is religious enough to qualify for an exemption,” Mateer said.
“We have always maintained our strong connection with the Assemblies of God and our commitment to serve the denomination with graduates who have a solid foundation in the Bible,” college president Don G. Meyer said in the press release.
“We are hopeful that the federal court will let us continue to engage in the ministry according to the faith that has defined the Christian Church for over two millennia,” he said.