When in 2007, Belmont Abbey College discovered abortion, contraception and voluntary sterilization were accidentally included in its medical insurance policies, it logically took steps to remove such coverage that gravely offends the Catholic morality and conscience. The 18 Benedictine monks operating the small college and living in a 142-year-old monastery in the tiny town of Belmont, N.C., expected no controversy.
However, responding to the change in coverage, eight faculty members filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the North Carolina Department of Insurance. The college gave a sigh of relief when the EEOC issued a March 2009 letter announcing that it did not find evidence of gender discrimination.
However, the agency later reversed its decision and stated in a July 30 letter that “By denying prescription contraceptive drugs, [Belmont Abbey College] is discriminating based on gender because only females take oral contraceptives. By denying coverage, men are not affected, only women.”
The ruling flies in face of the principle of conscientious objection and the Benedictine college is taking a position of vigorous opposition declaring they would rather close their doors that betray their Catholic principles.
To this effect, the schools has retained The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public-interest law firm in Washington, D.C., to join its legal team and help defend the school against the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The law firm has a 15-year-old history of defending and winning cases involving religious liberty.
“Both sides are entrenched,” says Becket national litigations director Eric Rassbach. “The issue of consciences will be coming up all over the place from health care to same-sex ‘marriage.’”
At a time when Catholic Universities are giving up their identity to fit in with the culture, it is refreshing to find a college that is willing to defend Church teaching. Catholics should offer their prayers and show support for this case which threatens to set a dangerous precedent.
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For more information or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys involved in the case, email Kristina Arriaga, Communications Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org