The president of a North Carolina-based Catholic college says he would rather close his school than comply with an order from the Obama administration requiring the private institution to offer contraception and abortion coverage as part of its employee health insurance plan. “I hope it would never get this far, but if it came down to it we would close the college before we ever provided that,” William Thierfelder, president of Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, told The Washington Times last month.
Belmont Abbey is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church and the Order of Saint Benedict, both of which teach against contraception and abortion. In December 2007, after a faculty member discovered that Belmont Abbey’s medical insurance covered oral contraceptives, abortions, vasectomies, and tubal ligations, the college changed its policy and excluded those procedures. Eight faculty members subsequently filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming the new policy amounted to gender discrimination.
In March, the agency sent the college a letter saying the complaint had been dismissed. But Thierfelder has said that the commission reopened the issue last month after officials in Washington reversed the district office’s initial decision.
On July 30, the Charlotte EEOC office ruled that, by denying contraceptive coverage in its employee health plan, the college had discriminated based on gender, and that it could face a lawsuit if it did not rescind the policy. “By denying coverage, men are not affected, only women,” wrote Reuben Daniels, Charlotte district director for the EEOC.
Observers say the dispute between Belmont Abbey and the federal government has implications for the health-care debate raging in Congress and in public town halls across the nation. “As the government scope of activity increases, you end up with obvious opportunities for compulsion,” said Chris Gacek, a lawyer specializing in regulatory affairs with the Family Research Council, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., in a recent telephone interview. “The way we’re going now at the state and federal level is to make it impossible for people to live up to their consciences. There is something fundamentally inappropriate about that,” Gacek said.
This article was posted with permission from The Carolina Journal.