Mich. schools sue over contraception mandate

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Two Christian schools, Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, filed a federal lawsuit this week arguing that they should not have to comply with the contraception provision in the federal health care law.

They are the latest in a string of colleges and universities, faith-affiliated charities and hospitals to seek court relief over requirements that most employers provide insurance that covers contraception for free, including the morning-after pill. Many for-profit business owners are also suing, claiming a violation of their religious beliefs.

Cornerstone and Dordt, as well as others, could face fines for noncompliance.

“The schools hold, as a matter of religious conviction, that it would be sinful and immoral for them intentionally to participate in, pay for, facilitate, enable, or otherwise support access to abortion, which destroys human life,” according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Iowa.

The Catholic Church prohibits the use of artificial contraception. Evangelicals generally accept the use of birth control, but some object to specific methods such as the morning-after contraceptive pill, which they argue is tantamount to abortion.

The lawsuit names Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius as one of the defendants. Both schools are represented at no cost by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian law group.

Dordt has more than 1,400 students. The 3,000-student Cornerstone calls itself a “religious higher education institution” and believes it should be exempt from the law.

“Given our conviction that life begins at conception and our commitment to the sanctity of life, we find the mandate to provide our faculty, staff, and students with insurance that provides access to abortion-inducing pills abhorrent and unacceptable,” Cornerstone president Joseph Stowell wrote in a letter Wednesday to students, faculty and staff.

“The government should not be able to force us to buy or provide insurance that gives access to morally objectionable drugs, devices, and services that violate our biblical convictions.”

In a separate case, a Michigan natural foods company failed to convince the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that it should be exempt on religious grounds.

In an opinion released Thursday, the court said Clinton-based Eden Foods is a secular, for-profit corporation and can’t “establish that it can exercise religion.”

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