Nearly 60 plaintiffs now suing Obama administration over HHS mandate

The Obama administration is facing growing resistance to its anti-conscience mandate two weeks before the policy goes into effect. Yesterday evangelical Wheaton College announced it was joining a lawsuit against the mandate. Last week another Illinois institution, Catholic Charities of Chicago, sued the administration.

The Department of Health and Human Services mandate becomes official on Aug. 1. It requires employers to cover abortion drugs, contraception and sterilization, even if they have religious or moral objections. The administration’s so-called “accommodation” has failed to address the concerns of organizations, prompting the rash of lawsuits attempting to overturn the directive.

Wheaton College joined a lawsuit with the Catholic University of America in D.C. District Court on Wednesday. It became the fourth Protestant college to sue the government, joining Colorado Christian University, Geneva College and Louisiana College.

There are now more than 20 separate cases and nearly 60 individual plaintiffs, ranging from hospitals and universities to businesses and charities, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The group’s general counsel, Kyle Duncan, remarked on the significance of Wheaton College’s decision:

This mandate is not just a Catholic issue — it threatens people of all faiths. Wheaton’s historic decision to join the fight alongside a Catholic institution shows the broad consensus that the mandate endangers everyone’s religious liberty.

Meanwhile, not far from Wheaton’s campus, another Illinois institution also outlined its objections to the mandate. Catholic Charities of Chicago served more than 1 million people in the Chicago area last year. Many of them weren’t Catholic.

Lawrence Baker, a Vietnam veteran struggling to overcome drug addiction, “>credits the organization for turning around his life. But because of the HHS mandate, Catholic Charities of Chicago would be forced to cut back on its services.

Monsignor Michael Boland, the organization’s president and CEO, said the Obama administration wants Catholic Charities to compromise its principles:

As all of us know, Catholic Charities serves the poor because we are a Catholic organization, not because our clients are Catholic. We strongly believe at Catholic Charities that we witness our faith by our service to the poor. We ask only, “Are you hungry?” “Do you need clothing?” or “Are you homeless?” Under the HHS mandate, to be a “religious employer” we would now have to ask, “Are you Catholic?” This goes against everything that Catholic Charities stands for as an organization. Under the HHS mandate, we are punished for both employing and reaching out to serve non-Catholics, which is an injustice.

Rob Bluey directs the Center for Media and Public Policy, an investigative journalism operation at The Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertBluey