Federal Agency Mandates Abortion Coverage
Special Report - August 17, 2009
A federal employment agency has found a Catholic college in North Carolina to be in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws for refusing to offer insurance coverage for artificial contraception, abortion, and sterilization because of religious objections. Reuben Daniels Jr., Charlotte District Office Director for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), notified Belmont Abbey College on August 5 that the school’s policy constituted gender discrimination against female employees “because only females take oral prescription contraceptives.”
Belmont Abbey changed its employee insurance plan in December of 2007, when it was discovered that the previous plan potentially covered artificial contraception, abortion, and voluntary sterilization. The change prompted six male and two female professors at the case to file a complaint with the EEOC, alleging discrimination. In March 2009, the EEOC sent a “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” determination letter to Belmont Abbey president Dr. William Thierfelder, notifying the school that the investigation had been closed without finding any wrongdoing. Then, on August 5, Dr. Thierfelder received a new letter from the EEOC, directing the College “to eliminate the alleged unlawful practice by informal methods of conciliation” with concerned employees, or face “court enforcement alternatives.”
“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 Dr. Thierfelder in a letter to the faculty. “The teaching of the Catholic Church on this moral issue is clear. The responsibility of the College as a Catholic College sponsored by the monks of Belmont Abbey to follow Church teaching is equally clear. There was no other course of action possible if we were to operate in fidelity to our mission and to our identity as a Catholic College.”
The Benedictine Monks founded Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, NC in 1876. The college employs 120 faculty members and enrolls 1,200 students. The Catholic Church’s social teaching regarding the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life forbids promotion, participation in, or procurement of artificial means of contraception, abortion, and voluntary sterilization.
The First Amendment of the United State Constitution preserves religious decision-making as insulated from state authority in most instances. Further, North Carolina law, while requiring employers to cover contraceptive expenses in insurance plans that cover other prescription drugs, exempts religious institutions that object to products and procedures on religious grounds.
“Belmont Abbey College should be commended for taking a stand on this timely and important issue,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “Other religious organizations should take note of the long and powerful arm of the federal government to interfere in the practice of basic tenets of the Christian faith.”
Copyright © 2009. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.