By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
November 27, 2013
BELMONT, N.C. — The Catholic college that has for two years battled the Obamacare mandate that will force organizations to provide employees with contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs is once again taking its case to federal court and this time asking for a jury trial.
Founded in 1876 by Benedictine monks, Belmont Abbey College has a simple mission: “That in all things God may be glorified.” Because it upholds the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the value of all human life, the college is being forced to either comply with the Health and Human Services mandate and violate its beliefs, or refuse to provide the contraception and abortion and pay fines of some $7.6 million per year beginning in December 2014.
“Belmont Abbey is yet another religious organization that the government has classified as ‘not religious enough’ for a mandate exemption,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, in a press release. The Fund is representing Belmont Abbey in the case filed Nov. 20.
“Any definition of ‘religious employer’ that excludes monks instilling religion is baffling,” he added.
Although the College admits that the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act offers it and other organizations like it a so-called “accommodation,” the legal complaint points out that the “accommodation” still requires Belmont Abbey to “play a central role in the government’s scheme, because it must designate an agent to pay for the objectionable services” on its behalf, which would still force the college to violate its beliefs.
“In sum, for both insured organizations like Belmont Abbey College and self-insured organizations, the accommodation is nothing more than a shell game that attempts to disguise the religious organization’s role as the central cog in the government’s scheme for expanding access to contraceptive and abortifacient services,” the suit alleges.
The 48-page filing further details how the contraceptive mandate violates not only the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution, but also the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the Weldon Amendment.
“Religious liberty, a fundamental right of all American citizens, has enabled our Benedictine community to found and operate our College according to the principles of our Catholic faith for 137 years. We cannot abandon these principles at the whim of the government without destroying the distinct mission of the school as well as the fundamental rights we enjoy in this country,” Abbot Placid Solari, Chancellor of the College and Abbot of Belmont Abbey, said via a press release.
The college had initially filed suit against the Health and Human Services mandate in late 2011. That case was dismissed in July 2012, when a federal judge suggested it should be delayed so that the HHS would have time to “fix the mandate.” In December of that year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the Obama administration could not implement the mandate as it stood, but would have to create a new rule regarding religious exemptions by August 2013, giving the court updates every 60 days as to its progress.
“There will, the government said, be a different rule for entities like the appellants, and we take that as a binding commitment,” the court wrote.
However, besides temporarily delaying the implementation of the mandate with a so-called “safe harbor” provision, no real changes were made.
“Despite the safe harbor and HHS’s accompanying promises, on February 15, 2012, HHS published a final rule ‘finaliz[ing], without change,’ the contraception and abortifacient mandate and narrow religious employers exemption,” the latest suit indicates.
“The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, with its mandatory requirements to support sterilization and contraceptives, actually usurps the authority of God in the life of Christ-centered organizations like Belmont Abbey,” Dr. Creech said. “It is beyond ridiculous that a Catholic college would have to sue the U.S. government to keep from funding abortion, but that is what it has come to.”
Belmont Abbey’s suit is among more than 80 filed against the mandate.
““The government has lots of ways to distribute contraceptives if it wants to —forcing monks to do it is completely unnecessary,” Rienzi said.