Westminster Sues Government over HHS Regulations

March 27, 2013

Files Motion to Intervene in the Becket Fund Lawsuit

GLENSIDE, Pa., March 11, 2013 – Westminster Theological Seminary announced today that it has initiated litigation against several federal governmental agencies and their cabinet member secretaries regarding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Affordable Care Act.

Westminster, which is represented by prominent Houston litigator Ken Wynne, moved March 8 to intervene in the Becket Fund’s lawsuit on behalf of East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University in Houston Federal District Court. The lawsuit challenges certain regulations enacted under the Affordable Care Act requiring Westminster to provide health insurance to its employees to cover drugs designed to induce abortions.

The Complaint, submitted to the federal district court in Houston, Texas, states federal agency defendants are violating Westminster’s rights under the First Amendment, and related statutes, to the free exercise of religion, by requiring the Seminary to provide health insurance to its employees that covers, and thereby promotes, their use of abortion-inducing drugs. Westminster believes this is in direct violation of one of the most basic tenets of its religious foundation – the sanctity of life – the understanding that every human life is created in the image of God.

“It is indisputable that every human embryo, formed the moment a human egg is fertilized, has a unique human identity,” said Westminster President Peter Lillback. “That is a human life the Affordable Care Act we are challenging would destroy. In Westminster’s view, this mandate is the antithesis of the federal government’s solemn responsibility ‘to promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty’ for its citizens.”

The federal government has recently proposed a regulatory “accommodation” that it asserts will spare Westminster and like institutions from any cost of providing and promoting the use of such drugs and will satisfy their First Amendment concerns.

“This proposed ‘accommodation’ does not protect Westminster, but instead only supplements and makes more stringent the mandate that would override our religious convictions,” Lillback said.

Westminster has taken this action in joining with the Becket Fund, and will pursue it resolutely, in furtherance of its mission to lead and serve the Kingdom of Christ according to God’s Word.

Westminster Theological Seminary was founded in 1929 and is located in Glenside, Pa. Its mission is to train Christian leaders to proclaim the whole counsel of God throughout a changing world. Through its world-class faculty and Reformed curriculum, it prepares pastor-scholars, theologians and men and women for other leadership roles for the global church in the 21st century.

Frequently Asked Questions

On March 8 Westminster initiated litigation regarding the U.S. Department of Health and Human services’ Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).  The litigation objects to the requirement of the ACA to provide health insurance to employees that include drugs designed to induce abortions.

Below are answers to anticipated frequently asked questions about the suit.

Q: Didn’t the government recently propose an arrangement that would clear institutions like Westminster from the mandate to offer abortion-inducing drugs?

A:  The government did recently issue modified regulations.  However, Westminster does not qualify as an exempt “religious employer” under the modified regulations and the proposed “accommodation” to non-exempt religious institutions like Westminster does not resolve Westminster’s objection that even the accommodation infringes on the free exercise of its religious liberty.  Under the accommodation, Westminster would still be facilitating the inclusion of the so-called abortifacient drugs in the individual policies that the accommodation requires be given their employees.  Thus, even the accommodation would encroach on our core religious beliefs.

Q: Aren’t religious institutions like Westminster provided an exemption that would make this suit unnecessary?

A:  The exemption is only provided for churches and other houses of worship.  Although certain seminaries that are affiliated with a denomination may qualify for the exemption, as a non-denominational institution, Westminster does not.

Q: Does filing the lawsuit involve Westminster in a political cause?

A:  Westminster is not a partisan institution.  Joining this lawsuit is an expression of our deeply held religious beliefs.  We are united in this action with many other religious institutions that are standing for religious freedom unrelated to any partisan cause.

Q: Aren’t there more pressing needs for the Seminary’s assets than such legal action?

A: Westminster is blessed to be represented by a law firm who regards this action as a unique calling and is therefore working on a pro bono basis. 

Q: Shouldn’t Westminster concentrate on its core mission?

A:  Teaching the whole counsel of God is at the core of our mission.  Westminster’s commitment to the whole counsel of God includes matters of public theology.  Thus, when necessary, the Board and faculty must be prepared to speak and to act our deeply held Biblical convictions that from time to time require appropriate civic engagement.