How much could an institution possibly care about what it views as its right to the exercise of religious freedom when it forgets to exercise it? Wheaton College, an evangelical liberal arts school in Illinois is about to find out.
Wheaton College filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration–like so many other Catholic churches, schools, and companies have done–claiming that the birth control benefit–the policy under the Affordable Care Act which ensures that all insurance policies cover preventive health care services for women, including contraception, without a co-pay–infringes on its religious liberty. According to Wheaton College, the Administration’s policy requiring that all insurance plans offer coverage of contraception without a co-pay is of the devil. Big Government and secular liberals are forcing Wheaton College to participate in the dissemination of slut pills to co-eds, and Wheaton College has decided to be outraged about it. It’s silly.
It’s silly because a requirement that Wheaton College provide contraceptive coverage to its employees is no more an infringement upon religious liberty than a requirement that it provide its employee wages; after all some of those wages might later be used to gamble, buy drugs, drink and drive, or murder kittens, all activities which are decidedly un-Christ-like.
In the case of Wheaton College, however, the silliness has given way to absurdity. Even assuming that the very fiber of Wheaton College’s religious being will be ripped in twain if it provides women contraception access, there’s one problem — Wheaton College already covered contraception in their health insurance plan.
Wheaton’s health plan already covered emergency contraception when the mandate was announced, a spokesperson for its legal team told The Huffington Post, and tried to scramble to get rid of that coverage in order to qualify for the one-year reprieve President Barack Obama put in place for religious institutions that have moral objections to contraception. “In order to be eligible for the safe harbor, the institution has to certify that it has not covered contraceptives after February 10, 2012,” said Emily Hardman, communications director for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Wheaton didn’t qualify because “for a short time after February 10, Wheaton’s policies inadvertently covered emergency contraceptives. Wheaton was in the process of fixing that error in February, but it was not fixed before the cutoff date.”
Apparently, Wheaton College was not able to get its religious act together in time to qualify for the religious exemption, and somehow, that’s all President Obama’s fault:
“Everyone knows Wheaton is a school that lives out its faith,” Duncan said. “But today our government is telling Wheaton it is not ‘religious enough’ to have a conscience, and so can be forced to participate in abortions or face heavy fines. Wheaton has always provided generous employee benefits, but now the government is forcing it to choose between caring for its employees and honoring its faith.”
It is unclear for how long Wheaton College offered coverage of contraception before realizing that they totally didn’t mean to do it. One wonders exactly how much premarital sex Wheaton College paid for before discovering its mistake–after all, providing access to contraception is the same thing as paying for women to have sex, doncha know. For how much spilled seed is Wheaton College responsible? For how many extramarital orgasms? I shudder to think.
Wheaton College has since been scrambling around trying to rectify their screw-up, and apparently the only genius idea that they’ve come up with is to cancel coverage for all of their employees. It’s what Jesus would have done, after all:
“Remember August 1, 2012. Today begins a violation of American conscience like we have never seen before in our country, and Wheaton College personifies it,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
“Everyone knows Wheaton is a school that lives out its faith. [Except for when you're providing free birth control to sluts, you mean. -ed.] But today our government is telling Wheaton it is not ‘religious enough’ to have a conscience, [Wheaton certainly wasn't 'religious enough' to hire someone who would remember that handing out birth control is a open-handed slap in the face to the Lord. -ed.] , and so can be forced to participate in abortions or face heavy fines. Wheaton’s only recourse is to ask the federal courts for emergency relief.” Wheaton does not qualify for the one-year “safe harbor,” which the government offered to certain religious organizations as a temporary reprieve from the HHS mandate. So, in a few short months, Wheaton faces the prospect of over a million dollars per year in fines and other penalties—unless it agrees to violate its core religious beliefs by providing insurance coverage for “emergency contraceptives” that they believe cause abortion. [Emergency contraceptives do not cause abortion, and believing such does not make it true. Also, you've been violating your core religious beliefs because of your own incompetence. Quit complaining. -ed.] “Wheaton’s employees are standing with the school but they are afraid,” said Duncan. “Many employees have said that, if Wheaton is forced to terminate insurance coverage, they will not be able to afford health care for their families. [So then don't terminate insurance coverage. Ta da! - ed.] Wheaton has always provided generous employee benefits, but now the government is forcing it to choose between caring for its employees and honoring its faith. [Caring for your employees means denying benefits to women or denying benefits to all employees. Which definition of "caring" are you using? -ed.] The government should never be able to put anyone in that position.”
Wheaton College, like Notre Dame, and the myriad churches and religious institutions that are complaining about being “forced” to participate in providing birth control to women, are on the wrong side of the argument. They complain about religious liberty while callously ignoring that they are infringing upon the religious liberty of those of us who do not adhere to the same tenets that they do. They gripe about being forced to facilitate sin but the sin is the individual choice to use birth control, a sin being committed by Catholics all across the country. Certainly, institutions like Wheaton College employ people who participate in any number of sinful behaviors. Few would argue that Wheaton College could refuse to pay its employees any wages at all in order to prevent its employees from cashing their paychecks and buying truckloads of birth control pills.
Ultimately, any argument that institutions are being forced to provide something (comprehensive insurance coverage) that an employee could–not will, but could–use to commit some perceived sin unrelated to the purpose for which that employee was hired, and that such existential assistance in the commission of said sin is a grievous violation of religious liberty, is nonsense.
The bottom line is this: Catholic schools, charities, and hospitals are not being treated unfairly here. No one is forcing Wheaton College and other Catholic schools, charities, and hospitals to provide birth control to employees directly, nor is anyone forcing employees to use birth control. They are simply required to do what other employers must now do–offer coverage and leave the rest up to employee choice. And by requiring Catholic schools, charities, and hospitals which serve those of us who aren’t Catholic to play by the same rules as everyone else, the Obama administration is guarding one of this nation’s bedrock principles: the separation of church and state. Arguably, the Obama administration is protecting my right to be a godless heathen. And for that, I’m thankful.
As for Wheaton College, they may continue to play the part of the religious institution wronged by secularist haters, but their actions speak louder than their words. Their complaint that the birth benefit violates their religious freedom or represents an affront to their faith rings hollow. Had they not been voluntarily providing that same benefit all along, I might stop rolling my eyes at them.