In 1973, a pair of Supreme Court rulings helped convince many evangelicals and Catholics to align as co-belligerents in the struggle against abortion. In 2012, an executive branch mandate is having a similar effect, this time bringing the groups together to defend religious liberties.
A new level of cooperation occurred last week when Wheaton College, a leading evangelical liberal arts school, joined with The Catholic University of America in filing a federal lawsuit opposing the Health and Human Services “Preventative Services” mandate. As the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty notes, “This alliance marks the first-ever partnership between Catholic and evangelical institutions to oppose the same regulation in the same court.”
“This mandate is not just a Catholic issue—it threatens people of all faiths,” says Becket’s Kyle Duncan. “Wheaton’s historic decision to join the fight alongside a Catholic institution shows the broad consensus that the mandate endangers everyone’s religious liberty.”
Several Christian leaders—including Chuck Colson, Richard Land, and Rick Warren—have previously called on evangelicals to stand with Catholics in civil disobedience to this law. Additionally, numerous evangelical academics and religious leaders signed a statement by the Beckett Fund explaining why the mandate is ” unacceptable.” Despite these efforts, too many of my fellow evangelicals still consider the mandate to be a “Catholic issue.”
The engagement of Wheaton College and the school’s president, Dr. Philip Ryken, should help clear up that misperception. “We . . . believe that we have a stake in the success of Catholic institutions winning their religious freedom arguments,” Ryken told Christianity Today. “Even if [contraception] is not a universal point of conviction for Protestants the way that it is for Roman Catholics, we believe that Catholic institutions should have the freedom to carry out their mission without government coercion. That struggle for liberty is a struggle for our own liberty and, we would argue, a struggle for the liberty of all Americans.”