The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), of which PLNU is a member, asked for an exemption from providing contraceptives to employees under university-provided health insurance. This is now required under the Affordable Care Act.
The CCCU released a letter opposing the treatment Christian colleges receive compared to religious organizations like churches, which receive religious exemption, under the act.
“We believe that a better exemption would equally recognize all religious organizations that hold themselves out to the public as religious and that engage in religious, charitable, or educational activities for sincere religious purposes,” said the letter signed in March 9, 2012.
The letter justified asking for an exemption by acknowledging that no insurance company could satisfy all religious employers because of different religious views on supplying contraceptives.
“[The] stated goal of providing for all women ‘preventative health services, including contraceptive services’ we believe that more could be done to protect religious liberty while still accomplishing the stated goal,” said the letter written in 2012.
The employer should be able to express their opinion on contraceptives but should not be involved in prohibiting someone to receive them according to the letter, “…allow each religious organization, based on its own determination of its religious mission and accordant beliefs, to determine whether the exemption or accommodation best protected its religious conscience.”
The letter is a response to the government’s interim rules that allow religious nonprofits to provide their objection to contraceptive coverage.
While the government’s interim rules make an allowance for objection, religious nonprofits are required to provide coverage for the full range of Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptives to participants and beneficiaries.
Insurance provided to the staff and faculty allows them to obtain contraceptives with a small co-pay.
In 2011, President Bob Brower signed a letter joining other CCCU university presidents concerned that all university-provided healthcare plans under Obamacare would have to provide preventative care for women.
“This regulation will require all health plans to cover preventative care for women that includes contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives (some of which are abortifacients),” stated the 2011 letter. “We view (this) as a violation of the conscience rights of our institution, as well as our First Amendment right of free speech and expressive association.”
The letter Brower and other CCCU university presidents signed in 2011 did not make any changes to the healthcare policy.
Under PLNU’s current healthcare plans, students are not able to receive contraceptives, but contraceptives are available to employees after co-pay.
Brower said the Nazarene church has no issue with contraceptives, but the larger issue is the government’s respect for religious institutions.
“They [the CCCU] were asking the government to respect religious freedoms and for the government to take the law and do this is an inappropriate form of government,” Brower said.
According to Heather Ross, associate professor of philosophy, contraceptives provide control for women over their reproductive health or other health issues.
“The decision to use contraceptives should be made between women and their healthcare provider,” Ross said.
Religious colleges and universities will continue to follow interim rules until they expire on Aug. 22, 2017 as stated in the Federal Register of the U.S. government.