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OPINION

2 Baptist profs to testify against Obama mandate

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WASHINGTON (BP) -- Two professors with Southern Baptist ties will testify before a congressional committee Thursday regarding the Obama administration's requirement that religious organizations subsidize insurance plans that cover contraceptives and abortifacient drugs for employees.
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"Ben Mitchell, professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and Craig Mitchell, associate professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, will speak before 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," Ben 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."

The two men will testify along with other religious leaders, including Jewish rabbis, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics. Ben Mitchell said he will tell the committee that he is 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," Ben Mitchell said. "And humbled because many of those Baptist forebears suffered and bled and died in doing so."

The two men -- not related -- will provide five-minute opening statements and then will answer questions from committee members. Ben Mitchell said he will quote John Leland, a Baptist minister who was a friend of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, and from the famous sermon entitled "Baptists and Religious Liberty" delivered by George W. Truett on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in 1920.

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"We enjoy religious liberty in this country because of the contribution Baptists have made," he 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."

The hearing will be streamed live at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time at oversight.house.gov.

Compiled by Tim Ellsworth director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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