On July 18, Wheaton College, one of most famous evangelical colleges in the U.S., joined The Catholic University of America in protesting the Obamacare HHS mandate by filing its own suit, with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty as the attorney of record. In a press release, the Becket Fund noted, ‘This alliance marks the first-ever partnership between Catholic and evangelical institutions to oppose the same regulation in the same court.’
And on Page 30 of the complaint, you’ll see the sentence, “Wheaton requests a trial by jury on all issues so triable.” Like many of the institutions filing suit against the mandate, Wheaton College is exercising its right to a civil jury trial as protected by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution.
Faith-based groups and their allies across America are protesting the Obamacare HHS mandate to force the provision of abortion-inducing drugs and devices through health insurance policies. For the first time in American history, a President is trying to impose a narrow definition of “religious institution,” in order to implement a political agenda. The definition could force the closure of faith-based services organizations, such as AIDS clinics, schools, and hospitals. If successful, the mandate would serve as the template for Uncle Sam to define any religious organization as it sees fit, and dictate hiring, financial, and all organizational decisions.
The Wheaton College lawsuit is the latest salvo in the ongoing protest. On June 14, the Catholic Heath Association, the largest groups of Catholic-based hospitals in the U.S., issued a letter opposing the HHS mandate. On June 11, over 150 faith-based organizations joined in a letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius, expressing “grave concern” over the impact that the Obamacare mandate will have on religious freedom. And on May 21, lawsuits were filed against the mandate by 43 Catholic dioceses, organizations and universities, specifically invoking their Seventh Amendment rights and demanding that local juries hear the suits, not judges. Other suits against the mandate were filed at various times by Christian colleges and state Attorneys General.
This legal battle is yet another reminder that the Founding Fathers designed a civil justice system rooted in the right to a jury trial for civil suits for all cases and causes. Religious liberty, property rights, free speech rights, medical malpractice claims, and products liability claims are treated equally under the Founders’ grand design. The Founders wrote of the need to protect the right to a civil jury trial from before the Revolutionary War through the debates by the states on the ratification of the Constitution, and then to the adoption of the Seventh Amendment as part of the Bill of Rights. The Seventh Amendment was unanimously approved by the states. At no time did the Founders discuss abridging that right by splitting cases or causes of action into economic and non-economic, with different rights for different types.