01.11.16

Senator Lankford Leads Congressional Amicus Brief in Support of Nonprofits’ Supreme Court Challenge to HHS Mandate

Four Universities From Oklahoma Are Plaintiffs In The Case

WASHINGTON, DC – Along with three other Members of Congress, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today submitted a bipartisan amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the religious nonprofits and charities challenging Obamacare’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, including the Little Sisters of the Poor. Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Representatives Diane Black (R-TN) and Mike Kelly (R-PA) joined Lankford in leading the Congressional effort, which was signed by 207 Members of Congress.

“This bipartisan amicus brief articulates the great concern that many Americans have about our First Amendment right of the free exercise of religion,” said Lankford. “The case exposes the Obama administration’s focus on freedom of worship as our primary religious right, instead of our freedom of religion, which includes our everyday lives. Colleges, universities and nonprofits should never be placed in a position where they have to violate their faith to please the government. The question before the Supreme Court should never have reached this level, but it is important for the future of our liberty that the Court now rule in favor of religious freedom.”

The nonprofits’ challenge will be heard this year in the case of Zubik v. Burwell. The amicus brief argues that religious freedom is a fundamental guarantee of the United States Constitution and, more recently, of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, noting that “Despite RFRA’s command that the religious beliefs of all individuals and organizations be accorded the same deference, HHS has given the religious liberties of religious non-profits second-tier status.” The Court will determine if Obamacare’s employer mandate for non-profit entities to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and contraception is constitutional. Last year, the Supreme Court held that this mandate violated RFRA as applied to a religious for-profit corporation.

Four universities from Oklahoma are involved in this case – Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Mid-America Christian University. Oklahoma Wesleyan President Dr. Everett Piper is attending Tuesday’s State of the Union as a guest of Senator Lankford.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental right that government must respect and accommodate,” said Senator Hatch. “Threatening draconian fines if religious organizations are unwilling to violate their faith clearly violates federal law.”

Senator Hatch was the lead Republican sponsor of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act when it passed Congress in 1993 – by a 97-3 vote in the Senate, and unanimously in the House – and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

In August of last year, Lankford introduced the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, a bill that would ensure that organizations, private businesses, institutions of higher education, health care providers, and insurance companies are not forced to sponsor insurance coverage that violates their religious or moral beliefs. Lankford also serves as the co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, which works to protect the fundamental human right of religious freedom and guards the right of individuals to pray and practice their faith freely.

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