JACKSON, Tenn. – Feb. 14, 2012 – Union University professor C. Ben Mitchell will testify before a congressional committee Feb. 16 regarding the Department of Health and Human Services’ recent decree that religious organizations provide contraceptives and abortifacient drugs to their employees.
Mitchell, the Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, will speak to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is investigating the challenges the ruling poses to religious freedom.
“This isn’t about the particular form of contraception,” Mitchell said. “This is about religious liberty. I want to keep coming back to that point. Whether it’s about contraception or some other health care issue, this is the government intruding into the life and violating the conscience of believers.”
Mitchell will testify along with other religious leaders, including Jewish rabbis, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics. He said he will tell the committee that he is both honored and humbled to testify.
“Honored because in doing so I stand in the legacy of our Baptist forebears who were such staunch defenders of religious freedom and liberty of conscience,” Mitchell said. “And humbled because many of those Baptist forebears suffered and bled and died in doing so.”
Mitchell will provide a five-minute opening statement and will then answer questions from committee members. In his statement, he will quote from John Leland, a Baptist minister who was a friend of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, and from the famous sermon by George W. Truett – entitled “Baptists and Religious Liberty” -- on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in 1920.
“We enjoy religious liberty in this country because of the contribution Baptists have made,” Mitchell said. “And while there were others who had contributed to religious liberty, it really is a Baptist thing, historically.”
Because of that heritage of religious liberty, Mitchell said Baptists “have no choice but to decry the Department of Health and Human Services’ requirement that religious organizations violate their conscience by paying for contraceptive and abortifacient coverage for their employees.”
“This is both foundational to who we are, and it’s not a decision that we will live with,” he said. “We will find ways, either to change the policy, or some of us will have to be guilty of civil disobedience by rejecting it.”
The hearing will be broadcast live at 8:30 a.m. Central time at oversight.house.gov.