ETBU president testifies on birth control measure
By Hannah DeClerk email@example.com
Feb. 16, 2012 at 10 p.m.
East Texas Baptist University President Dr. Samuel "Dub" Oliver testified Thursday on Capitol Hill against the potential government mandate that would force faith based institutions to pay for contraceptives.
Dr. Oliver spoke before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform along with a panel of 10 representatives from various faiths during a hearing entitled, "Lines: Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?"
The panel argued against the government forcing faith based institutions to comply with the Health and Human Services ruling to provide its employees with insurance that would pay for preventive care.
Some of the covered contraceptives include emergency contraceptives such as Plan B, the morning after pill, and Ella, the week after pill.
East Texas Baptist University has been addressing this issue since the final rule was first released in August 2011, Oliver stated during his testimony.
ETBU has already submitted comments on the rule to HHS, and has written letters to President Obama asking his administration to respect the religious liberty guaranteed in the Constitution, and advocated with lawmakers.
Dr. Oliver said his remarks at around 12:15 p.m. CST. After everyone on the panel said their remarks, then committee members asked questions. The hearing was dismissed at 1:05 p.m.
His testimony consisted of four main points, the first being "East Texas Baptist University has a religious objection to this mandate, and this mandate violates our constitutional rights."
"The overwhelming coverage of this issue has been focused on the Catholic concern with the HHS mandate," Oliver addressed to the panel. "But I would like to begin by talking about why this issue is so important to us as a Baptist school. "
According to Oliver, Baptists in America, by virtue of history, are particularly sensitive to coercive government actions that infringe on religious liberty.
"We are united with Catholics and people of all faiths regarding the fact that no religious group should be forced by the government to do things that they believe and teach are wrong," he said. "We believe that the Federal government is obligated by the First Amendment to accommodate the religious convictions of faith-based organizations of all kinds, Catholic and non-Catholic."
He said as a Baptist, he would be standing "here even if this mandate only affected my Catholics neighbors."
"But I must point out that this is not just a Catholic issue…. While many Christians do not share the Catholic beliefs against contraception, there is wide agreement that abortion is wrong," he said.
He said under the administration's mandate, ETBU will be required to buy insurance so employees "can get abortion-causing drugs for free, as if they are no different than penicillin."
"We believe that is wrong," he added.
He said ETBU, like many Christian educational and social service institutions will soon face the choice of either "paying for drugs we consider immoral on religious grounds" or "terminating our employee health insurance plan and paying a significant per-employee fine."
Dr. Oliver's second point, "We are offended that this Administration says that we aren't "religious enough" to have our religious beliefs respected," was based on the administration's final approval to a rule made last Friday.
"This issue is not about women's health," but about "religious liberty," was the third point Dr. Oliver made during his testimony.
"This is about whether the government can get away with trampling on the rights of religious organizations," he said.
He argued "of course religious organizations like East Texas Baptist University care about women's health" and said the institution already covers "preventative services, including contraceptives, under our employee health plan."
"We simply object to a few drugs, which the government calls contraceptives, because we believe they cause abortions," he said.
He closed his testimony with a final thought, "if the government is allowed to go down this road, where will it end?"
He urged the Committee and Congress to act to ensure "protection for those of us at East Texas Baptist University, and for all Americans."