Christian College Loses Challenge to Obamacare

     CHICAGO (CN) – Wheaton College, a private evangelical college, must offer emergency contraceptive drug coverage to its employees and students, the Seventh Circuit ruled.
     Students and faculty of Wheaton College are required to sign a “community covenant” in which they pledge to “uphold the God-given worth of human beings, from conception to death.”
     The school implements this covenant by excluding coverage of emergency contraception and intrauterine devices, which both destroy a fertilized ovum after sexual intercourse, from its health plans. The school does not opposed traditional contraception methods that prevent fertilization.
     However, under the Affordable Care Act, students and staff may still have access to these contraceptive methods — and the school’s insurer must pay for them directly.
     The school sought an injunction against the law, claiming that this indirect method of offering emergency contraceptive still used the school’s health plan, and violated its First Amendment rights.
     “This case arises from the government’s effort to use Wheaton College’s health plans to distribute emergency contraceptive drugs,” the school’s complaint says.
     U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner characterized this statement as “inaccurate.”
     “Actually there are no efforts by the government to take over Wheaton’s health plans, as Wheaton contends. Acts cannot be enjoined that are neither actuality nor threat,” Posner said.
     Last year, the Supreme Court enjoined the government from enforcing the contraception mandate against Wheaton College.
     But on remand, the Seventh Circuit ruled Wednesday that the Affordable Care Act does not violate Wheaton’s religious rights by requiring it to report its claimed religious exemption to its insurers.
     “When Wheaton College tells us that it is being ‘forced’ to allow ‘use’ of its health plans to cover emergency contraceptives, it is wrong. It’s being ‘forced’ only to notify its insurers (including third-party administrators), whether directly or by notifying the government (which will forward the notification to the insurers), that it will not use its health plans to cover emergency contraception, that it is out of the loop, that the insurers will have to deal directly with the students, faculty, and staff, bypassing the college health plans, which remain in force, so far as contraceptive coverage is concerned, only for the contraceptives that the college does not disapprove of on religious grounds,” Posner said. (Emphasis in original.)
     The panel rejected the argument that the college remains complicit in the extended contraception coverage as the healthcare provider for student and staff.
     “Wheaton College does not want to be involved in the provision of emergency contraceptives; pursuant to its wishes, it no longer is involved,” Posner said. (Emphasis in original.)
     However, that wish does not give the college the right to prevent its students from obtaining access to emergency contraceptives covered by the ACA, the court ruled.
     In addition, Wheaton claims the government is discriminating against it because churches have been exempted from the contraception mandate.
     “But Wheaton College does not claim to be a church, or explain how without some notification to the government, or to its insurers, an organization that is not, like a church, automatically exempt becomes known to the government as having religious views that clash with, and entitle it to opt out of, the federal law,” the 18-page opinion states.
     The Seventh Circuit came to the same conclusion in a case brought by the Catholic university Notre Dame, which also won a preliminary injunction from the Supreme Court.

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