Wheaton College, an evangelical school in Illinois, joined Catholic groups in a lawsuit against the United States Obama administration’s contraception mandate, which requires most employer health insurance plans to provide birth control coverage.
Wheaton is joining Catholic University of America, which launched its suit two months ago. The University of Notre Dame and dozens of other religious organizations, mainly Catholic, have also filed suits in federal courts around the country to overturn the mandate.
Faith-based organizations, mainly Catholic hospitals and universities, have strenuously objected to the religious exemption provided under the proposals. They have been joined by a number of evangelical groups in lobbying for changes to the mandate or strategizing to overturn it.
Wheaton resident Philip Ryken said that while evangelicals do not ascribe to the Catholic teaching against artificial birth control, the mandate requires coverage for so-called “morning after” pills like Plan B, to which the college objects. Ryken said Plan B is an “abortion-inducing” drug, though studies show that the pill apparently does not cause abortions.
Ryken also said that the exemption that the Obama administration has proposed for churches and religious groups excludes many faith-based hospitals and colleges. Having the government decide which faith groups qualify as sufficiently “religious” is a violation of religious freedom, he said.
“In effect, we are co-belligerents in our fight” against the mandate, Ryken said of the Catholic groups that oppose the mandate.
Ryken said Wheaton had been considering a lawsuit for months but had been waiting for the Supreme Court ruling on the health care law. The high court upheld the law in a landmark decision last month.
While the legal battle lines are clearer, it’s still not certain that Wheaton and other groups will prevail in the lawsuits and whether any rulings will come in time to affect the presidential campaign this fall.