Faithful Catholic college faces lawsuit over refusal to provide contraception

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The president of a small Catholic college said Friday he would rather close the school’s doors than violate the church’s teachings on contraception — Ben Conery of the Washington Times has the story:

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has determined that Belmont Abbey College violated discrimination laws because the school’s employee health insurance plan does not cover contraception, according to a letter the EEOC sent to the school.

“I hope it would never get this far,” college President William K. Thierfelder told The Washington Times, “but if it came down to it we would close the college before we ever provided that.”

The factual conclusion reached by the EEOC could be a precursor to the commission filing a federal discrimination lawsuit against the college. (More).

Further details from LifeSiteNews:

Eight BAC faculty members filed a complaint against the college for removing coverage for abortion, sterilization, and contraception from their employee health insurance, supplied by Wellpath. The faculty first complained to the North Carolina Department of Insurance that BAC was required to cover contraception under state law because it did not qualify for the religious employer exemption. Both the state department and Wellpath, however, disagreed with the complainants.

“If you ever came on this campus, the first thing you see is the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians,” said Thierfelder. “That basilica is connected to a monastery. That monastery is connected to the main administration building.”

The group of complainants, who joined forces with the National Women’s Law Center, then made a gender discrimination complaint to the EEOC, which in March informed the Abbey that it had closed the issue. Two months later, the EEOC reversed its decision.

“By denying prescription contraception drugs, Respondent [the college] is discriminating based on gender because only females take oral prescription contraceptives,” wrote Reuben Daniels Jr., the EEOC Charlotte District Office Director in the determination. “By denying coverage, men are not affected, only women.”

College president William Thierfelder is insistent that the school maintain its fidelity to Catholic teaching:

“[I]t is absolute, unequivocal, impossible for us to go against the teachings of the Catholic Church in any way. There is no form of compromise that is possible.”

Meanwhile, the Manager of University Events for Gonzaga University (“in the Jesuit, Catholic, humanistic tradition”) seems to have some anger-management issues regarding conservatives — and a particular affection towards Planned Parenthood. (Hat tip to Carl Olson for the latter).

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  1. Rod Dreher posted this too, and he got some really vicious responses, many of them accusing Catholics of trying to “impose their religion” on others, including the employees of Belmont Abbey College. Reactions like this seem to typify the growing group of self-identified ex-Catholics who feel the need to strike back at some long-dead nun who clunked them with her rosary beads for daydreaming at mass. I have a sense that the Obama administration is providing employment for many of these people.

  2. Beliefnet, where Dreher blogs, has always been a hangout site for a great many anti-Catholics. What this case amply demonstrates is the folly of Catholic colleges giving employment to people bitterly opposed to what the Church teaches.

  3. Was the employee in question someone tasked to find a job at the institution so some grouplet of the public interest bar would have standing to sue?

  4. I am following this case, hoping that the college will go the distance on this one. To lose is to give the Govt (with Obama’s blessing) even more ammo to come after us for carrying out our mission, which they find so disagreeable.

  5. Two issues: one, they’d be better off eschewing federal financial aid, like Christendom, TAC, and Hillsdale; second: eight faculty involved in this complaint… if they hired genuine Catholic faculty, this would never happen. The Benedictines of Belmont Abbey, who run this college, also run Benedictine High School in Richmond, Va, where two of my sons have attended. I’ve noticed that while the monks are usually personally orthodox, they are far too indifferent about what kind of teachers they hire for their “Catholic” school.

    Perhaps those chickens are coming home to roost.

  6. Donald,

    What this case amply demonstrates is the folly of Catholic colleges giving employment to people bitterly opposed to what the Church teaches.

    What would become of the Notre Dame Theology Dept. if they were let go? Imagine the number of openings at SFU, BU, Georgetown, etc. etc.


    you’re right on. Time to cut the government loose. This is another point about the excess of government, imagine if ALL of our health funding was controlled by the government.

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