A strong contingent of Oklahoma Wesleyan students gathered with President Everett Piper on the steps of the Supreme Court recently, and they articulately voiced their concerns and their prayers about a landmark case going on inside. The case impacting religious freedom in the United States was argued, and although the outcome will not be announced until June, the effects will be far-reaching.
Oklahoma Wesleyan University is one of the plaintiffs in the case which, among other results, will determine whether religious organizations like Christian colleges can be forced by the government to provide abortifacient drugs through their health insurance programs. Employees, students, and the institutions would be forced to pay for and support these drugs. Millions of dollars in penalties are threatened by the government, and institutions and people could be forced to choose between yielding their religious convictions or face dire consequences.
The students joined President Piper who has been waging a high-profile battle in the marketplace of ideas for not only this issue, but several important points of tension between our Christian beliefs and the broader culture.
In recent months, national media outlets have turned to Dr. Piper frequently as a spokesperson for conservative convictions, and he has used the platform to elevate Oklahoma Wesleyan University, The Wesleyan Church, and more importantly, the cause of Christ.
Here are a number of the recent media coverages:
What follows is the speech given by Dr. Piper to the crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court, in its entirety:
My name is Everett Piper, and I am the President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
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 to not participate in an insurance plan that includes abortion inducing drugs. We consider it an injustice for anyone to suggest that they should have to do otherwise.
Oklahoma Wesleyan University has a history of standing up against injustice. One of the founders of the Wesleyan movement was a man by the name of Orange Scott–a passionate abolitionist who birthed our church and inspired our university’s mission. Because of Reverend Scott’s example, Oklahoma Wesleyan does not separate private life from public life but rather expects its faculty and students to demonstrate a life of integrity as they take their private convictions into the public square. Just one example of such cultural engagement is our “Orange Movement” which is an initiative launched by our students to fight human trafficking, an epidemic of injustice that affects 8.4 million children globally. Just this past year, OKWU adopted Rahab House in Southeast Asia, a safe house for 38 young girls who are the victims of government and cultural indifference to their freedom and dignity.
Our commitment to stand up for what we believe and what we know to be right has now led us to these steps: asking that our basic Constitutional freedom to be who we have always been–to be Wesleyan, to be faithful Christians–be respected and preserved.
If the government had wanted to, they could have set up plans on the state and federal health exchanges that would have allowed women 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 billion-dollar corporations for reasons that have nothing to do with religion and is targeting 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 against the beliefs of the Oklahoma Wesleyan employees who should be granted more dignity and respect than to suffer government coercion on such personal matters.
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. It is attacking our religion and it is attaching 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.