Wheaton College Wins Huge Court Battle Over Obama’s Birth Control Mandate

Dec 2014
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Wheaton College Wins Huge Court Battle Over Obama’s Birth Control Mandate


A judge ruled Thursday the government would violate federal civil rights laws if it forced Wheaton College to provide services like contraceptives in its health care plans against its religious beliefs, and granted a permanent injunction against it.

When the Obama administration instituted a contraceptive mandate several years ago through the Health and Human Services department, Wheaton College was one of the dozens of organizations to immediately oppose it. Wheaton, one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, often referred to as the “Harvard of Christian schools,” argued being forced to pay for the contraceptives would violate its religious rights. The permanent injunction bars the government from ever forcing the school to pay.

This is the first district court order offering permanent protection from the HHS mandate after the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Zubik v. Burwell, which said that the government could not fine religious groups for following their faith and said it could find other ways to provide services to the women who want them. The injunction not only protects them from Obama’s “old” mandate, but from any similar, future mandates as well.

Attorney Diana Verm, an attorney with Becket, the non-profit organization which represented Wheaton along with another firm, and also Little Sisters of the Poor, in their fight against the HHS mandate, told me in an e-mail, “The district court had ruled against Wheaton before because of prior court of appeals precedent that has since been vacated by the Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell, where the Supreme Court told the government it could not fine groups like the Little Sisters and Wheaton College for following their faith.”

A portion of the injunction says, “After reconsideration of their position, Defendants now agree that enforcement of the currently operative rules regarding the “contraceptive mandate” against employers with sincerely held religious objections would violate RFRA, and thus do not oppose Wheaton’s renewed motion for injunctive and declaratory relief.”


https://thefederalist.com/2018/02/2...urt-battle-over-obamas-birth-control-mandate/
 
Dec 2014
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Thanks to a legal maneuver from the Trump administration

On Thursday, a federal court entered a permanent injunction protecting Wheaton College from the contraceptive mandate imposed by the Affordable Care Act and its implementing regulations.

The college’s victory came following a five-year legal battle. The Obama administration opposed Wheaton’s claims under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), but last week the Trump administration agreed that “requiring employers with sincerely held religious objections to comply with the [contraception] Mandate or the accommodation process would violate RFRA.”

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The Trump administration effectively granted Wheaton College the benefit of the revised regulations through a legal maneuver. In early January, the administration agreed in a status report that Wheaton should be allowed to file a motion for a permanent injunction under RFRA. Then, in response to Wheaton’s motion for a permanent injunction, government attorneys acknowledged that the contraceptive mandate and the “accommodation” process adopted by the Obama administration violate RFRA. This concession led Judge Robert Dow Jr. to rule in Wheaton’s favor.

Judge Dow’s ruling conflicts with the decisions entered by the California and Pennsylvania district courts in December. For instance, in Pennsylvania v. Trump, Judge Wendy Bettlestone held that the government’s interpretation of RFRA — that the accommodation process places a substantial burden on a person’s exercise of religion — “is erroneous as a matter of law.” Consequently, Judge Bettlestone entered a preliminary injunction barring the government from enforcing the interim final rules.

District court judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. went even further in California v. Hargan, entering a nationwide preliminary injunction barring the government from enforcing the interim final rules and also ordering the government “to continue under the regime in place before October 6, 2017, pending a determination on the merits.”

In the Wheaton case, in conceding that the contraceptive mandate violated RFRA, the government maintained that the injunctions in Pennsylvania v. Trump and California v. Hargan “do not purport to interfere with this case or other existing litigation challenging the prior rules.” Yet the preliminary injunctions entered in the other cases clearly intended to maintain the status quo, pending resolution on the merits. The permanent injunction entered in Wheaton’s favor altered the status quo, but the Pennsylvania and California plaintiffs (and judges) remain powerless to challenge the ruling. And that is as it should be.

The Pennsylvania and California courts never should have entered nationwide injunctive relief in the first instance. The plaintiffs in those cases have no connection to Wheaton College or many of the other religious employers located throughout the country. Accordingly, assuming injunctive relief was appropriate, the courts should have limited the scope of the preliminary injunction to the named plaintiffs.

Yet not only did the district courts in California and Pennsylvania enter a nationwide injunction against the federal government, when an interested party — the Little Sisters of the Poor — sought to intervene to defend the Catholic charity’s interest in the interim final rules, the courts denied their request.

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https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/02/wheaton-college-contraception-lawsuit-victory/