Published December 23, 2015
An evangelical college is joining Catholic groups in suing the Obama administration over the so-called contraception mandate.
Illinois-based Wheaton College announced Wednesday morning that it had joined The Catholic University of America in filing suit before District of Columbia federal court.
The wave of lawsuits has so far been dominated by Catholic organizations. After the Supreme Court upheld most of the federal health care overhaul last month, those groups vowed to continue their legal challenge against the requirement that employers provide access to contraceptive care.
The announcement Wednesday marks the first time an evangelical group has joined that effort.
"In this case, we recognize we have common cause with the Catholic University of America and other Catholic institutions in defending religious liberty," Wheaton College President Philip Graham Ryken said on a conference call.
Wheaton, a protestant institution, is objecting to the Department Health and Human Services rule on slightly different grounds than the Catholic institutions. While those institutions are opposed to the requirement regarding all contraceptive coverage, Wheaton objected only to the possibility that they would have to provide access to coverage for "abortion-inducing drugs."
"We're very clear on the sanctity of life, and this insurance mandate goes against our conscience," Ryken said. He said the fact that Catholic groups are teaming up with an evangelical college in this lawsuit should signal that "something really significant in terms of religious liberty is at stake."
In May, dozens of Catholic groups filed a dozen separate but related federal lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the requirement. Among the organizations were the University of Notre Dame, the Archdiocese of New York and The Catholic University of America.
The Obama administration several months ago softened its position on the mandate, but some religious organizations complain the administration did not go far enough to ensure the rule would not compel them to violate their religious beliefs.
Ryken accused the administration of creating "two classes" of religious institutions by providing an exemption for churches but not religious-affiliated colleges.
The lawsuit filing came a day after a federal judge in Nebraska dismissed a suit over the HHS rule filed by seven states.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Wheaton College, claims the ruling will not affect their case.