Wheaton College has appealed the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking an exemption from a health care reform mandate to provide coverage for emergency contraception.
A federal judge last week dismissed the lawsuit, saying it was premature. College officials chose to appeal because they said the mandate infringes on the school's religious liberty.
"We're appealing because we continue to believe that our case should be considered on its merits," Wheaton College President Philip Ryken said in a statement.
Wheaton's lawsuit, filed in July, helped prompt the federal government in August to loosen criteria determining which institutions could qualify for a year's reprieve from the mandate, which requires religious employers to provide insurance coverage for all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives.
The change means Wheaton has until Jan. 1, 2014 to comply with the regulation or begin facing fines, which college officials say could total $1.4 million a year.
Federal Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled last week that because Wheaton now qualifies for the one-year exemption period, the college is not facing an imminent injury and the lawsuit is premature.
The college and its lawyers from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty say the one-year reprieve has not addressed their core concerns about the legality of requiring a religious employer to act against its beliefs on abortion and provide coverage for all contraceptives. Wheaton's beliefs oppose drugs such as Plan B and Ella, taken after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy, but the college does not take issue with other contraceptives.
The appeal was filed Aug. 29 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.