Wheaton College v. Burwell

    • "For Christ and His Kindgom"

    • Founded by prominent abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard, Wheaton’s history is marked by the stories of students and alumni whose faith drives them to affect the church and society for good.

    • At the foot of the Thomas Jefferson memorial, LaTonya Taylor (Wheaton), President John Garvey (CUA), President Philip Ryken (Wheaton), President Bill Mumma (Becket Fund), and Kristina Arriaga (Becket Fund) stand in solidarity for religious freedom.

Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.) is an explicitly Christian, academically rigorous liberal arts college and graduate school noted for its consistent ranking among the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Wheaton College’s mission is to “serve Jesus Christ and advance His Kingdom through excellence in liberal arts and graduate programs that educate the whole person to build the church and benefit society worldwide.” This mission expresses Wheaton’s commitment to do all things “For Christ and His Kingdom.”

Founded in 1860 by the prominent abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard, Wheaton’s history is marked by the stories of students and alumni whose faith drives them to affect the church and society for good.

The HHS mandate requiring the College to provide insurance coverage for abortifacient drugs forces Wheaton to either violate its religious convictions or to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines annually. The concerns Wheaton College communicated about these regulations through letters to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services did not result in a solution that respects the college’s freedom of conscience.  That is why on July 18, 2012, on the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, Wheaton College filed suit in an effort to defend its constitutional freedom to carry out its mission in a way consistent with its religious principles.

Wheaton College is pervasively Christian. Its students, faculty, and staff commit to a Community Covenant that affirms “the God-given worth of human beings, from conception to death.” The use of contraceptives to induce early-term abortions violates this belief.

In a historically unprecedented event, Wheaton joined with The Catholic University of America united in defense of the religious liberty of all faiths.

On August, 24th, in direct response to a lawsuit challenging the HHS mandate brought by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on behalf of Wheaton College, the federal government has rewritten its one-year “safe harbor” to include Wheaton, giving the prominent evangelical institution until August, 2013, before being forced to comply with the mandate or face crippling fines. As a result of the government’s concession a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed Wheaton College’s lawsuit as premature.

On September 20th, 2012, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, granted a motion for expedited appeal, and on October 5, 2012 the Becket Fund filed their brief in the DC Circuit court.

On December 18, 2012 the D.C. Circuit Court of appeals handed an intermediate victory to the religious colleges when they commanded HHS to act quickly to fix the HHS Mandate.

Wheaton College’s original lawsuit was delayed for over a year by the government’s promise of a religious accommodation, but the government still insists that Wheaton College is not a “religious employer” and therefore ineligible for a religious exemption. On December 13, 2013, the Becket Fund refiled its lawsuit on Wheaton’s behalf.

On June 23, 2014, the court denied Wheaton’s motion for a preliminary injunction. Wheaton is pursuing an appeal.

UPDATE: On July 3, 2014, Wheaton College received last minute relief from the Supreme Court, protecting the College’s right to carry out its religious mission free from crippling IRS fines.

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Amicus Briefs Filed in Support of Wheaton and Belmont Abbey Colleges