Criswell College is comprised of a couple of buildings on a single block in East Dallas at the intersection of Gaston and Haskell. The 42-year-old institution is tiny, just 322 students, but deeply religious.
Its mission is centered on preparing students for the ministry, which it does according to the theology of the Southern Baptist Convention. All faculty members are required to subscribe to the college's Articles of Faith, centered on the unwavering belief in the Bible as the unerring Word of God. Prospective students are required to write an admissions essay "describing when they came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as savior."
"Everything taught at Criswell is saturated with Scripture," the school proudly proclaims. Several days each semester, Criswell shuts down so that "all faculty and students go into the surrounding community for the purpose of praying with people and sharing the gospel message through personal evangelism encounters."
The details above are all spelled out in a lawsuit Criswell filed yesterday against the Obama Administration, with an assist from Plano's Liberty Institute.
The school is unhappy with the Department of Health and Human Services requirement that employers, including many that are religiously affiliated, provide contraception coverage through their health plans.
In the past, Criswell has made a point to negotiate health plans that don't provide coverage for certain contraceptives, including Plan B and Ella. Criswell, the school explains in the suit, believes that God's prohibition against murder in the Sixth Commandment includes abortion. It also believes that human life begins at conception and that using drugs like Plan B, which prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, is tantamount to murder.
The mandate provides exemptions for churches and organizations that employ only people who share a certain faith, but that exemption doesn't apply to Criswell, since its non-teaching staff are not required to subscribe to the Articles of Faith. The school argues that requiring it to pay for such coverage, even indirectly thanks to Obama's superficial workaround, is a violation of a number of federal laws and constitutional provisions, most notably the one protecting free exercise of religion.
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