Local Christian universities lose case over Obamacare birth control exemption

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Several Christian universities are frustrated following a recent decision by the federal appeals court.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby does not have to provide employees with contraception under the Affordable Care Act.

However, four private Christian universities in Oklahoma were recently told they can’t use the same religious exemption.

Southern Nazarene University is one of the schools that sued the federal government and lost.

This case and the Hobby Lobby case are very similar, but legal experts say there's one key difference – an extra option given to the universities.

A number of religious non-profits wanted to follow Hobby Lobby’s lead and be exempt from the contraceptive coverage mandate under Obamacare.

Four Oklahoma universities joined the lawsuit: Southern Nazarene, Oklahoma Baptist, Oklahoma Wesleyan and Mid-America Christian.

They argued that some of the contraceptives their insurance companies are required to provide for free to their employees are abortion pills.

The government told the universities they would need to fill out a form to be exempt from the requirements of the law based on religious freedom.

“It’s either file the form, which was the first choice; they didn't want to do that. Then the government said, 'Okay, just give us a notification that you don't want to provide the coverage and you want an accommodation.' And they objected even to that,” Constitutional law expert Michael Salem said.

The universities were represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

"The so-called 'accommodation' is not an exemption; it is just another means by which an employer complies with the abortion pill mandate," attorney Gregory Baylor said.

The schools maintain they should have been given the same exemptions as Hobby Lobby.

Some legal experts disagree.

“They said, ‘We don't want to do that,’ whereas Hobby Lobby, the question was Hobby Lobby itself having to provide that coverage as opposed to merely filing a document,” Salem said.

The universities aren't giving up yet.

Their attorney tells us they want the full appeals court to rehear the appeal or they'll take it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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