Editor’s Note: This is a letter from women who work at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, issued in response to an editorial by Dortha Dunlap posted on April 12 by the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise.
As women employed by Oklahoma Wesleyan University, we felt compelled to respond to recent questions raised regarding OKWU’s case for religious liberty, specifically in the case of government-imposed health coverage for abortifacient drugs.
First, we are mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, leaders, professionals, and ultimately, followers of Christ. Many of us are graduates of the University. Several of us have or are pursuing advanced degrees. In other words: we are a well-educated and varied group.
We would also like to be clear that we are highly qualified for the work we do and could, quite easily, choose to work for any number of organizations or companies.
We chose to work at Oklahoma Wesleyan in great part because we embrace the same values our employer so adamantly espouses. We believe in the power of higher education to change lives and cultures. We believe in the mission and vision of our University which is, in part, to pursue objective truth and bring healing and wholeness in our broken world.
Because we chose to become part of the Oklahoma Wesleyan community, we can also leave whenever we choose—no one keeps us here against our will. The women of OKWU are empowered, intelligent, qualified, and extremely capable of making our own decisions. To suggest that we are being forced into anything by our employer is to suggest that we are not capable of thinking for ourselves and is an insult that is as far from “pro-woman” as one can possibly get. It is simply fallacious to suggest that women who work at OKWU are being oppressed by patriarchy, sheepishly acquiescing to male-dominated leadership that is somehow imposing its belief system on its female employees. We know no such females. We know no males at this institution who would endorse such passivity.
Any organization, religious or not, makes hiring decisions based on qualifications and missionfit. Oklahoma Wesleyan is very clear about what it stands for, and would be falsely advertising if it did not seek individuals who share the mission and vision of the University. What is so newsworthy about an organization standing by its word? We knew exactly what we signed up for when we joined the OKWU team, and we are proud of it.
Likewise, we knew what we were getting when we made the decision about what kind of healthcare we wanted. Oklahoma Wesleyan offers a top-of-the-line healthcare package, and the invasion of the government into this most private area of our lives is ludicrous—another insulting suggestion that we do not know our own minds and most deeply-held beliefs. We agree with our president that this requirement is a dangerous overstep into the private lives of United States citizens and is a direct violation of the free and peaceful exercise of our faith: a first amendment right, not a gift that can be given or withheld at whim.
Abortifacient drugs and treatments are inexpensive and widely available, so access is not the problem. In fact, the government could choose to offer these abortion-inducing drugs on the state health exchanges, leaving organizations like Oklahoma Wesleyan completely out of the picture. So if anyone is forcing the issue, it is the government that has chosen the unjust and unconstitutional path of trying to force us to violate our deepest convictions.
We already made the choice not to use these services when we joined the OKWU team, if not long before. We do not and will not want them. If we felt differently, we would not continue choosing to work at Oklahoma Wesleyan.
The women of OKWU believe in the worth of womanhood. We don’t see pregnancy and childbirth as a disease that needs to be “treated.” The very core of who we are as followers of Christ says that every life is worthwhile from the start, and it is a violation of our faith to put our name or our money into a product or service that is anything but life-giving.
We are proud to be part of an organization that is fighting for religious liberty for people—especially women—from all walks who choose to peacefully live out their beliefs. We are proud to have a leader who fights for our right to choose what healthcare we do or do not want. We are proud to stand beside him because we share his belief—and the belief of our employer—that the women of Oklahoma Wesleyan should have the same right as everyone else to live out the values we choose.
Female Employees of Oklahoma Wesleyan University:
Betty-Jo Anderson Stacy Gerth Deb Cook
Sheresa Grate Brenda Smith Patricia Leggett
Julia Crouch Lidija Bell Jennifer Beavers
Kathy Johnstone Juanell Castleberry Samantha Johnson
Andrea Zepeda Becky Daniel Sarah Crockett
Tracie Gillette Melissa Heck Sue Stults
Stephanie Leupp Jennifer Blehm Lisa Riggs
Sarah Cochran Karen Carlson Martha Stedwell
Jessica Johnson Joy Divine Katie Ellis
Janet Odden Jessica Morrow Kandi Molder
Vay Facione Sarah Blain Angel Olenberger
Alivia Berg Cheryl Salerno Karen Krietemeyer
Catherine Reeves Lauren Barnum Kathryn McNeil
Alyssa Carley Lizbeth Rodriguez