August 27, 2012 Print

Obama Administration Revises ‘Safe Harbor’ Rule

by Karla Dial

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., on Friday dismissed a lawsuit from Illinois’ Wheaton College against the government, saying the Christian school has not been harmed by a federal mandate to provide insurance for students that covers contraceptives and possible abortifacient drugs.

That’s because the Obama administration recently changed the rule delineating which religious organizations must comply this year and which have until next August to do so. Originally, Wheaton College didn’t qualify for the “safe harbor” extension. But weeks after the lawsuit was filed, the Obama administration changed the rule specifically to include religious schools; it took effect on Aug. 15.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is defending Wheaton and several other religious schools fighting the mandate, said the rule change was strategic. Lawyers are now considering an appeal.

“The government has now rewritten the ‘safe harbor’ guidelines three times in seven months, and is evidently in no hurry to defend the HHS mandate in open court,” said General Counsel Kyle Duncan. “By moving the goalposts yet again, the government managed to get Wheaton’s lawsuit dismissed on purely technical grounds. This leaves unresolved the question of religious liberty at the heart of the lawsuit.”

Read the ruling from the court on Wheaton v. Sebelius.


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