By Manya A. Brachear, Chicago Tribune –
CHICAGO — A federal judge has dismissed Wheaton College’s lawsuit against the Obama administration for requiring the evangelical Christian college to offer health insurance that covers the cost of contraception, including the morning-after pill, for employees.
The judge’s decision came two weeks after the college, in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, was granted an additional year to meet the requirement.
Because the government agreed not to enforce the mandate against Wheaton until August 2013 and promised to revise the mandate before it goes into effect, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled that the lawsuit was premature and Wheaton did not face a foreseeable hardship.
“Wheaton only tilts at windmills when it protests that it will not be satisfied with whatever amendments defendants ultimately make,” Huvelle wrote.
“The government argued that Wheaton’s case should not proceed because it is premature—but the court is mistaken in accepting that argument,” Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a statement released by Wheaton. “In dismissing this case, the court did not address the substantive merits — Wheaton’s argument that being forced to offer drugs that violate its religious beliefs is harmful to its religious freedom.”
Previously, Wheaton did not qualify for a one-year “safe harbor” from the mandate because it covered emergency contraceptive drugs in its insurance plans after the Feb. 1 cutoff date. The government changed its guidelines this month, giving Wheaton another year to meet the requirement.
“The dismissal fails to recognize that the new safe harbor still leaves Wheaton in violation of federal law, and therefore vulnerable to lawsuits authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to enforce the mandate,” Duncan said in the statement. “For that reason, Wheaton is considering its options for an appeal.”