March 25, 2016 – Bartlesville, OK
On Wednesday, March 23, Oklahoma Wesleyan University arrived at the steps of the Supreme Court and took a stand for religious liberty in a real and powerful way. A group of 35 OKWU staff and students participated in a rally with hundreds of brothers and sisters in Christ while the court heard the oral arguments of Zubik v. Burwell.
This landmark case for religious freedom focuses on the HHS mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which requires religious organizations to provide access to abortion-inducing drugs as part of employee health insurance plans. OKWU is one of nearly 40 other plaintiffs including the Catholic order of nuns, Little Sisters of the Poor, in protest of the mandate from which thousands of businesses and organizations are already exempt for reasons having nothing to do with religion. If the court rules against the plaintiffs, each organization could face crippling annual fines.
“In attempting to force us to comply with an unjust edict that tears at the very heart of who we are, our government is attacking the motivation that drives us and the mission that defines us,” said President, Dr. Everett Piper, who was in the court as oral arguments were presented. “It is attacking our religion and our freedom to exercise it. Oklahoma Wesleyan simply wants to continue to operate according to the faith-driven freedom it was founded on and the mission that still inspires us to serve our college students, our community, and our world today. In a free and democratic society, we should be able to do so. “
Students arrived early to Wednesday’s rally, and their passion was contagious.
“I felt it was really important to represent our generation on a historic day like this,” shared Taylor Harvey, OKWU senior and pre-med student. “It’s important to show we care about religious freedom and that we support our brothers and sisters in Christ… At some moments as I stood between some of the nuns and my fellow college friends, I was just overwhelmed with the amount of love and support shown by everyone. It was so cool to see how the crowd expanded—it started with just our group, then we were joined by the nuns, and as the morning went on, I suddenly looked around and couldn’t see where our crowd ended. It was really encouraging.”
One OKWU student, senior Courtney Backward, gave a speech at the rally, saying,
“The desire to honor God and live out our faith isn’t just a nice idea at OKWU—it’s a genuine way of life… The government could create a plan to make these drugs and devices available on the state health exchanges, but instead, it has chosen the unjust, unlawful, and unnecessary path of forcing people of faith to participate in acts that violate their deepest convictions.”
Also at the rally was Ben Rotz, Associate Vice President of Student Development, who said it was a great learning experience for the students, in part because it opened their eyes to the bigger picture of what is at stake. “It’s not first and foremost about Oklahoma Wesleyan,” he stated, “it’s about protecting religious liberty for every American.” Furthermore, Ben noted students had the opportunity to learn first hand that “it’s possible to stand up for what you believe in while maintaining a disposition of respect, treating others with honor and dignity.”
As the students interacted with media and others at the rally, it was clear their voices were heard, said Dr. Piper:
“Our students and staff just stepped into the gap and became part of one of the biggest stories of our time. They spoke with confidence and conviction and with the humility of Christ. As the result, their voice will literally influence the hearts and minds of our entire culture. OKWU students were truly ‘roaring lambs’ for the Church and for freedom. I am very proud of our students and staff.”
A decision from the court is expected early this summer.
For more details of the case, check out these helpful articles: