Note to reader: This speech was delivered by Dr. Piper on the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States on Wednesday, March 23, 2016.
The Wesleyan Church has stood firm for human freedom and the dignity of women since its inception some 150 years ago. Today, Oklahoma Wesleyan University finds itself before the Supreme Court of the United States, forced to defend its employees, who, because of their religious convictions, simply want the freedom to choose healthcare that is consistent with their faith and their church’s doctrine; employees, many of whom are women, who simply want to exercise their choice not to participate in an insurance plan that includes abortion inducing drugs. We consider it an injustice for anyone to suggest they should have to do otherwise.
Oklahoma Wesleyan has a history of standing for justice. One of the founders of the Wesleyan movement was a man by the name of Orange Scott, who was a passionate abolitionist and birthed our church and inspired our university’s mission. Stemming from Rev. Scott’s example, Oklahoma Wesleyan University expects all of its faculty and students to demonstrate a life of integrity and to fully integrate Biblical principles into their thoughts, words and deeds as they engage and lead in the public square. We have always stood for those whose rights are dismissed by their culture and ignored by their government. Today, as we stand on the steps of our nation’s highest court, this college now finds itself fighting for its own Constitutional freedom to be who we have always been: to be Wesleyan and to be faithful Christians.
If the government had wanted to, it could have set up plans on the state and federal health exchanges that would have allowed women across the nation to access the drugs and devices in question. In fact, there is nothing stopping the government from doing that even now. Instead, the Obama Administration has exempted corporations, both large and small, for reasons that have nothing to do with religion while at the same time forcing Christian institutions like Oklahoma Wesleyan (under threat of millions of dollars in crippling fines) to carry abortion-inducing drugs in our employee health insurance plans. This is against the beliefs and mission of our school and it is against the beliefs of the employees of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Surely the women who work here should be granted more dignity and respect than to suffer government coercion on such personal and private matters.
Forcing the employees of Oklahoma Wesleyan University to comply with this unjust edict tears at the very heart of who we are. Our government is attacking the motivation that drives us and the mission that defines us. It is attacking our religion and it is attacking our freedom to exercise it. What’s more, it is attacking the rights of women at this university to choose their own healthcare.
Oklahoma Wesleyan simply wants to continue to operate according to faith-driven freedom it was founded upon 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 choose to do so.
Dr. Everett Piper is president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
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