Leading Protestant college sues over contraception mandate

Another prominent religious college has filed suit against the Obama administration over a policy meant to ease women's access to free birth control. 

The suit from Ill.-based Wheaton College — dubbed the "Notre Dame" of Protestant higher education — states that the controversial policy violates the religious freedom of people who object to birth control or consider forms of it equal to abortion.

"Wheaton College and other distinctively Christian institutions are faced with a clear and present threat to our religious liberty" through the mandate, Wheaton President Philip Ryken said in a statement. 

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The White House proposal requires that most employers cover birth control without a co-pay in their employees' health plans.

Religious-affiliated institutions, such as Catholic schools, don't have to offer the coverage through their own plans — their employees will instead receive birth control directly from their insurer, still without a co-pay.

Churches and houses of worship are exempt altogether.

Wheaton's move comes one day after a federal judge dismissed a large suit over the mandate on the grounds that the policy has not yet taken effect.

That suit was filed by the Republican attorneys general of seven states and three Catholic groups based in Nebraska.

While Protestant teaching does not outlaw the use of birth control, as Catholic teaching does, some people in both groups consider some forms of birth control equal to abortion.

The morning-after pill is the most commonly derided form, as many believe it prevents a fertilized eggs from implanting to the uterus.

Experts recently called this understanding outdated and scientifically incorrect.

Wheaton filed the suit Wednesday in District Court in the District of Columbia, joining 57 other plaintiffs who have undertaken similar legal action since the regulation was first announced.

A release noted D.C.'s Catholic University of America is assisting Wheaton in the suit, and that the effort represents the first Catholic-Protestant partnership against the mandate. 

Catholic University filed its own suit in late May alongside Notre Dame University and the Archdiocese of Washington.

"As the president of the national university of the Catholic Church, I am happy to express solidarity with our evangelical brothers from Wheaton College," said Catholic University President John Garvey. 

Updated at 1:57 p.m.