Defending itself from a U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission ruling that its refusal to provide contraceptive coverage was discriminatory against women, Belmont Abbey College has retained the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty to appeal the decision.
After a faculty member discovered that contraception, abortion and voluntary sterilization were covered by the North Carolina college’s health care policy, the drugs and procedures were removed from the plan in December 2007. Though the state of North Carolina requires this coverage, it offers an exemption for religious institutions.
Reuben Daniels Jr., Director of the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Charlotte District Office, issued an August 5 determination holding that that the denial of prescription contraception drugs constitutes discrimination based on gender “because only females take oral prescription contraceptives.”
“By denying coverage, men are not affected, only women,” he added, according to the Gaston Gazette.
The EEOC also ruled that the college retaliated against faculty members who filed charges with the Commission by identifying them by name in a letter to faculty and staff.
An initial March 2009 ruling found no evidence of gender discrimination. A press release from the Becket Fund claimed that the reversal came “presumably at the direction of the new administration in Washington.”
The Becket Fund joined the college’s legal team on Thursday.
Kevin “Seamus” Hasson, president and founder of the Becket Fund, said that President Barack Obama had “talked a good game” about protecting conscience in his speech at the University of Notre Dame.
“But when his administration went to Belmont Abbey, where the rubber meets the road, it was a very different story,” he said.
Hasson said that the case was a “very important part of a much larger battle” to protect “the good name of conscientious objection in America.”
“Ever since the Quakers, with their gentle stubbornness, persuaded a skeptical America that they should not have to swear oaths or serve in the military against their consciences, we have recognized that principled people are an asset to a society, not a liability,” he continued.
“The EEOC’s action is a direct assault on the principle of conscientious objection itself, and we will resist it vigorously,” Hasson stated.