Wheaton College Seeks Emergency Relief Against HHS Mandate
Leading Evangelical School Files Motion for Preliminary Injunction Demanding Protection from Unconstitutional Mandate
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, as the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate takes effect, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty asked a D.C. federal court to issue a preliminary injunction on behalf of Wheaton College, the leading evangelical liberal arts institution. Wheaton now faces the decision whether to obey the HHS mandate—which would force it to cover abortion-inducing drugs—or obey its faith.
“Remember August 1, 2012. Today begins a violation of American conscience like we have never seen before in our country, and Wheaton College personifies it,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Everyone knows Wheaton is a school that lives out its faith. But today our government is telling Wheaton it is not ‘religious enough’ to have a conscience, and so can be forced to participate in abortions or face heavy fines. Wheaton’s only recourse is to ask the federal courts for emergency relief.”
Wheaton does not qualify for the one-year “safe harbor,” which the government offered to certain religious organizations as a temporary reprieve from the HHS mandate. So, in a few short months, Wheaton faces the prospect of over a million dollars per year in fines and other penalties—unless it agrees to violate its core religious beliefs by providing insurance coverage for “emergency contraceptives” that they believe cause abortion.
“Wheaton’s employees are standing with the school but they are afraid,” said Duncan. “Many employees have said that, if Wheaton is forced to terminate insurance coverage, they will not be able to afford health care for their families. Wheaton has always provided generous employee benefits, but now the government is forcing it to choose between caring for its employees and honoring its faith. The government should never be able to put anyone in that position.” (See declarations of employees below)
To avoid making dramatic changes to its employee health insurance, Wheaton is asking the court for a decision by September 30—which is a month before Wheaton’s open enrollment starts for its 2013 health insurance plans.
The Becket Fund led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, and along with Wheaton represents: Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, and Ave Maria University. There are now 24 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law, and they recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”
For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Emily Hardman, Communications Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202.349.7224.
Becket Fund’s Memorandum in Support for Preliminary Injunction (August 1, 2012)
Becket Fund’s Complaint (July 18, 2012)