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August 14, 2009

Look Who's Discriminating Now

Belmont Abbey College is under attack for its refusal to offer medical coverage for abortion.

Last week, thanks to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal government took a giant leap toward encroaching on the religious liberty of Catholics. Reuben Daniels Jr., director of the EEOC District Office in Charlotte, N.C, ruled that a small Catholic college discriminated against female employees by refusing to cover prescription contraceptives in its health insurance plan. With health-care reform looming before the country, this ruling is a bad omen for people of faith.

— by Patrick J. Reilly, The Wall Street Journal

In 2007, eight faculty members filed a complaint against Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., claiming that the school's decision to exclude prescription contraceptives from its health-care plan was discriminatory against women. "As a Roman Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey College is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church," said the college's president, William Thierfelder, at the time.

In March the commission informed the college that the investigation of its employee health insurance plan had been closed with no finding of wrongdoing. Inexplicably, the case was reopened, and now the college is charged with violating federal law. If Belmont Abbey doesn't back down, the EEOC will recommend court remedies.

The ruling against the college is certainly consistent with the commission's published guidance on "pregnancy discrimination." The EEOC has found that contraceptive coverage is mandated by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (even though the law concerns pregnant women and does not, by strict interpretation, consider discrimination against all women of childbearing potential). North Carolina also has made its position clear with a law requiring employers to cover employees' contraceptive expenses if other prescription drugs are insured.

The difference, however, between the EEOC's guidance and the North Carolina law is that the latter exempts religious employers such as a Catholic college, whereas the commission fails to consider that the tenets of a faith may preclude an institution from offering such benefits.

And that's the rub: Increasingly it is clear to Catholics and other religious groups that without very clear exemptions for religious employers—and conscience protections for individual doctors, nurses, pharmacists—federal health-care laws and guidelines could severely restrict religious freedom in the U.S. . . . (continue reading)

N.B. If you would like to make a donation of any amount to help Belmont Abbey College protect its Catholic identity in the face of pressure like this, please donate securely online to the new "Chancellor's Fund."

1 comment:

  1. I think Mr. Reilly's argument is incorrect. Focuses on a connection between employees and the employers faith and not the correct issue being the employees and the compensation for their labor.

    My full reaction is here http://theobservedblog.blogspot.com/2009/08/on-eighth-day-he-said-let-there-be-co.html