Wheaton College drops student health insurance over objection to objection requirement

Wheaton College, a Christian school in Illinois, announced earlier this month that it will not be renewing the health insurance plans it provides for its students. The school will continue providing health insurance for its faculty and staff.

According to the school, the Department of Health and Human Services’s new rules that work around the specific religious exemptions outlined in the Hobby Lobby ruling are a violation of their sincerely held religious belief that taking part in any action that in any way can lead to a woman having access to birth control is a sin.

Those rules, issued earlier this month, state that if a religious institution objects to paying for a health insurance plan that covers contraception, they don’t have to pay for a health insurance plan that covers contraception. What they do have to do is officially declare their religious objection, after which the government can direct the insurance company to provide birth control through a separate plan. Since birth control is at most cost-neutral from an insurance perspective — women on birth control don’t carry the much higher costs associated with, well, birth — the government isn’t imposing any costs on anyone, especially not the employer — in this case Wheaton. It is simply separating birth control coverage from other health insurance coverage, and requiring religious institutions to pay only for the non-birth control part.

Even this was a bridge too far for the religious school. As TalkingPointsMemo explains:

IUD, via Shutterstock

IUD, via Shutterstock

The school terminated its plan not due to the fact that it was being forced to pay for contraceptive coverage — it is not — but that it is in a legal battle over whether it should even have to notify the government that it is seeking a religious exemption to providing contraceptive coverage. The current policy for religious non-profits gives them an exemption, at which point the government directs insurers to provide birth control coverage through a separate policy not paid for by the non-profit.

Wheaton contends that even the act of notifying the government of its religious opposition to birth control coverage makes it complicit in providing birth control. A federal appeals court has rejected Wheaton’s contention, so rather than comply with the requirement that it notify the feds, Wheaton is ending all health coverage for students.

For Wheaton, if their students have access to birth control, they are complicit in providing that coverage, even if their only role in the process is declaring that they object to said coverage.

As appeals court Justice Richard Posner (remember him?) wrote when denying Wheaton’s appeal, that argument doesn’t make any sense: “Wheaton College does not want to be involved in the provision of emergency contraceptives; pursuant to its wishes, it no longer is involved.”

And now its students will have to get their health insurance elsewhere. Because principles and Jesus.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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22 Responses to “Wheaton College drops student health insurance over objection to objection requirement”

  1. ComradeRutherford says:

    How can you tell which are the Good and Pious Christians? They are total assholes filled with Godly Hatred.

    I can’t be a Christian because I can’t muster enough hatred to qualify.

  2. nicho says:

    Everybody thought Clinton came up with that, but it was — and is — a very common belief — predating Clinton’s assertion. Once, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was caught munching out an actress in his trailer on the set, the person who caught them said “What about Maria?” Arnie answered “Eating isn’t cheating.”

  3. mhandrh says:

    There are myriad reason why birth control is essential — and none of it is the businss of school officials. It is between the female and her doctor.
    It is entirely selfish and un-christian to withhold services for all students because the leaders are unreasonable and unrealistic.

  4. mhandrh says:

    Billy Graham’s alma mater is ending insurance coverage for students — insurance for flu, sprains, and a multitude of ailments for which a student might need care – and covered by insurance – because the leaders object to female students having full availability of services related to their biological/reproductive system.
    Nice.
    Christian-based petulance = Make them all suffer because we won’t give an inch. Jesus loves us.

  5. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Neither did Bill Clinton. Obviously, none of them know how to do it.

  6. 2patricius2 says:

    What a brilliant comment! But I must admit, Betty Bowers – “America’s Best Christian” – says it better than you in her own satirical way: “”If I discriminate against or criticize you it’s called religious freedom. If you return the favor, it’s called persecution.”

    I might also add that your implication that criticizing the behavior of a subset of Christians betrays an antipathy toward all Christians is a bit of a stretch. It does seem a bit egocentric, for those Christians who oppose the rights of those who don’t agree with them to health care or equal treatment, to present themselves as though they are the only real Christians in the world.

  7. taxicolor says:

    Amen (so to speak) nicho!

  8. nicho says:

    Fortunately for them, many of the young folk who buy into the “abstinence only” blather don’t consider blow jobs as sex.

  9. nicho says:

    I feel antipathy toward any and all groups who try to take away my civil rights. I really don’t give a rat’s ass whether you find it charming or not. Your bigotry certainly isn’t admirable.

  10. Houndentenor says:

    It should be part of health insurance when you have to see a doctor and get a prescription to get it.

  11. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Aren’t condoms contraception? Perhaps you feel that only men should have access to contraception? Health insurance should only cover major medical issues? Like childbirth? That’s real cheap compared to the cost of contraception.

    Now about antipathy to Christians. I’m Lutheran and have no problem with contraception. Perhaps you don’t consider Lutherans to be Christian. That would be an interesting discussion.

  12. Gustav Wind says:

    Which begs the question, why is contraception required as part of health insurance? Condoms are cheap. Health insurance should be covering major medical issues, not mundane supplies.

    But your antipathy toward Christians is charming none the less.

  13. nicho says:

    Religion and logic are mutually exclusive.

  14. rmthunter says:

    Fortunately for the students, under the ACA they can be covered on their parents’ insurance until age 26. Which I’m sure will include contraception coverage.

  15. BeccaM says:

    If this college is making policy decisions (and demands) based on religious beliefs, basically indicating they are a religious, not a secular school, I would hope they accept NO federal or state taxpayer money as well.

    I know: It’s futile. They get to impose their irrational Sky-Tyrant misogyny…and we all have to pay for it.

  16. keirmeister says:

    No sex while in college?!?

    [email protected]$k that!

  17. keirmeister says:

    I won’t pay any taxes on the grounds that I’m a religious organization. This is my sincere religious belief…and I refuse to file any paperwork with the IRS to attest to this.

  18. Bose says:

    So, Wheaton has long required students not to have sex outside marriage. The reporting is that about 25% of the 3,000 students have had the insurance, about 750. If a fifth of the insurance holders were married, that’s a max of 150 who could possibly use birth control without violating the no-sex rule.

    But, rather than make contraception-related edits to the conduct code for the student body it already controls tightly, the school has flushed massive resources down the drain on Supreme Court challenges.

    Such a great message to its student body, eh? Wheaton so vehemently distrusts you to follow a simple directive (such as not using contraception, especially not via college-affiliated insurance) that we will waste millions of dollars in a vain attempt to prove it, and then take an option away from hundreds of you to deny the few dozen who might have violated school policy that option.

  19. 2karmanot says:

    “What is it with religious extremists and logic” Well, let’s consider the basics: Mr. Sky god is vengeful, wrathful, jealous, abusive, but LOVES us. Then there is Lazarus and Mr. Jesus, who according to the Bible are the first zombies known to history. Then there is the virgin birth, and finally, but not only—-the Catholic Mass, which by any other name is a cannibal ritual.The list is long.

  20. JeffAtMinetfiber says:

    What is it with religious extremists and logic? By not providing insurance to their students, they are forcing them to get their insurance elsewhere, and those plans will definitely include birth control coverage.
    The stupid, it burns!

  21. nicho says:

    I guess this means they won’t bake cakes for gay weddings either.

  22. Indigo says:

    That’s too bad because Wheaton had a solid Liberal Arts reputation. Poof! Gone!

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