Mark L. Rienzi in the National Catholic Register with an important update in the war for religious liberty:
Early last month, President Obama bragged to a St. Louis crowd about the recent Health and Human Services’ regulations that will require thousands of religious employers to pay for contraception, sterilization and drugs that probably cause abortions. The crowd cheered the president’s contraceptive mandate. He joined their revelry, shouting, “Darn Tootin’!” to the crowd’s delight.
The same week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addressed a NARAL Pro-Choice America fundraiser. She told the raucous crowd that “we are in a war” and boasted of the regulation that forces religious objectors to choose between violating their religion and kicking their employees off of health insurance.
Enter Belmont Abbey:
Yesterday, Nov. 9, Secretary Sebelius’ war against religious objectors landed her someplace she and the administration can expect to receive less applause: federal court.
The plaintiff is Belmont Abbey College, a small Catholic college in Belmont, N.C. The college was founded in 1876 by a congregation of Benedictine monks, who built the campus with bricks they formed by hand from the red clay of the North Carolina soil. They still sponsor and run the college to this day. True to its Catholic identity, the college does not provide contraceptives, sterilization or abortions for its students or employees.
The federal government was well aware of Belmont Abbey’s religious objections. In fact, President Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been investigating the Catholic college for more than two years for its refusal to pay for contraceptives and abortions. Nor are the monks of Belmont Abbey alone in the fact that their religion forbids them from buying these services. Tens of thousands of other religious individuals and organizations filed written comments with HHS, asking the administration to refrain from forcing them to violate their beliefs.
The details of the fed mandate are particularly onerous:
The new regulations also force the monks and other religious objectors to pay for speech with which they disagree. These employers and schools now have to pay for their employees and students to receive “counseling and education” about contraceptives and sterilization. So the monks at Belmont Abbey can preach against contraception and sterilization all they like on Sunday morning. But on Monday, Secretary Sebelius will make them pay someone else to send the exact opposite message.
We should commend Belmonet Abbey, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty legal team, for taking a strong stand for religious liberty.
You can read the Becket Fund’s press release about the lawsuit here.