Today Wheaton College, a leading evangelical Christian school and the alma mater of the Rev. Billy Graham in Illinois, sought an injunction for "emergency relief," as it seeks to remain exempt from the Health and Human Services (HHS) insurance mandate which comes into effect today.
Filed on Wheaton's behalf by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the preliminary injunction would, the college hopes, temporarily keep at bay the fines which would be levied on them under the mandate, should they fail to comply with the provisions.
The provisions, which are part of the Affordable Care Act, would require “most employer health insurance plans to provide birthday control coverage,” as was reported on God’s Politics last month. Many Catholic institutions and groups have already filed lawsuits again the mandate, and Wheaton is one of a growing number of evangelical institutions joining in the legal challenge.
According to a press release from The Becket Fund, Wheaton “does not qualify for the one-year 'safe harbor,' which the government offered to certain religious organizations,” and as a result, college officials have said that “the government is forcing it to choose between caring for its employees and honoring its faith.”
In the release, lead counsel for The Becket Fund, Kyle Duncan, was quoted stating that “our government is telling Wheaton it is not ‘religious’ enough to have a conscience,” or qualify for the exemption.
Speaking about the mandate more broadly last month, Duncan stated that:
“This mandate is not just a Catholic issue – it threatens people of all faiths. Wheaton’s historic decision to join the fight alongside a Catholic institution shows the broad consensus that the mandate endangers everyone’s religious liberty.”
Today, Wheaton's president, Philip Ryken, argued that “distinctively Christian institutions are faced with a clear and present threat” to their religious liberty, going on to say that the HHS mandate “violated the First Amendment rights of anyone who believes for religious reasons in the sanctity of human life.”
With today’s injunction and two-dozen additional lawsuits filed by a wide variety of institutions and organizations across the country against the HHS mandate, it appears that any resolution on the provision of birth control through insurance providers is still a long way off.
Jack Palmer is a communications assistant at Sojourners.
Image: Wheaton College's Blanchard Hall and front of campus outside Chicago. By DiscoverDuPage via Wylio.