One of the nation’s top evangelical colleges has filed a lawsuit opposing the Health and Human Services mandate that forces religious institutions to pay for and refer women for abortion-causing drugs, birth control and contraception.
Wheaton College of Wheaton, Illinois joins many other educational institutions in arguing against the controversial mandate, which requires religious employers to either violate their religious beliefs or pay fines. Evangelical liberal arts institution Colorado Christian University is also suing on religious liberty grounds, alongside Catholic Belmont Abbey College and Ave Maria University.
Dr. Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, said the main reason for the lawsuit is that the pro-life institution opposes the use of drugs that can cause abortions and would be forced to violate its religious beliefs.
“This insurance mandate is against our conscience and against our Christian convictions. We have no recourse now but to file suit,” Ryken said. “Institutions like Wheaton College should not be merely accommodated, they should be exempted like churches are.”
Wheaton joined forces Wednesday with Catholic University of America to sue the government and Ryken added that Wheaton and Catholic University also wanted to demonstrate cross-denominational solidarity on the issue of religious freedom.
“We have a respect for Roman Catholic institutions and in this case we recognize we have common cause with Catholic University of America and other Catholic institutions in defending religious liberty. We’re, in effect, co-belligerents in this fight against government action. I think the fact that evangelicals and Catholics are coming together on this issue ought to be a sign to all Americans that something really significant for religious liberty is at stake,” he said.
John Garvey, president of Catholic University of America, said Wheaton College’s joining the 24 lawsuits demonstrates that the issue is about religious freedom, not contraception.
“This is not a fight over contraception. Evangelicals, in fact, don’t agree with Catholics on their opposition to contraception and birth control,” he said.
The mandate “runs roughshod over Wheaton’s religious beliefs, and the beliefs of millions of other Americans, by forcing it to provide health insurance coverage for abortifacient drugs and related education and counseling,” the lawsuit reads.
Wheaton noted it has “no conscientious objection” to contraceptives, but objected to providing coverage for abortion-inducing drugs or services “even if those items were paid for by an insurer or a plan administrator and not by Wheaton College.”
Institute on Religion and Democracy President Mark Tooley applauded the lawsuits.
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“Kudos to Wheaton College in standing up for religious liberty and against an unconscionable attempt at government coercion,” he said. “The partnership between Catholic and Evangelical institutions in opposing the HHS mandate is another example of the two religious groups finding common cause in the defense of religious liberty.”
He concluded: “The HHS mandate has been portrayed as a dispute over contraceptive coverage, but it is so much more. Evangelicals and others have correctly identified that infringements upon the religious convictions of Roman Catholics affect them as well.”