A Catholic college that made its insurance carrier drop abortion, contraceptive, and sterilization coverage from its health plan faces the threat of a lawsuit because of complaints from faculty.
A complaint against the college has also been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Deal Hudson, writing at InsideCatholic.com on Friday, reported that Belmont Abbey College had asked its insurance carrier, Wellpath, to meet with faculty and staff to brief them on their insurance options.
One faculty member noticed that the coverage included voluntary sterilization, abortion, and contraception, and alerted the college administration.
The president of Belmont College asked Wellpath to remove those procedures from the plan on the grounds that they were contrary to Catholic teaching. Though the state of North Carolina requires this coverage, it offers an exemption for religious institutions.
Faculty and staff were then sent an e-mail memo explaining the coverage change and the reasons for that change.
According to InsideCatholic.com, the college’s Vice President for College Relations Ken Davison explained the reasons for the change, saying, "This insurance coverage is contrary to the clear moral teaching of the Catholic Church so we will not offer nor will we subsidize these medical services. To do so would be contrary to our stated Catholic mission and identity."
Ken Davison said that eight Belmont College faculty, six men and two women, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint, filed during the Christmas break, alleged that the changes in insurance coverage were discriminatory on the basis of sex and religion. One faculty member also complained to the state’s Department of Insurance about the changes in coverage and the religious exemption.
The National Women’s Law Center on January 16 mailed a letter to the college president threatening a lawsuit on behalf of the eight faculty members. The letter demanded that the college reinstate the coverage and pay any damages and out-of-pocket costs.
No lawsuit has yet been filed. However, the college has hired legal counsel to respond to the EEOC complaint.
The president of Belmont Abbey College, Dr. William Thierfelder, wrote to faculty explaining why he did not consult with them in making the changes to the health insurance coverage.
“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,” he wrote.
In the letter, President Thierfelder also said he and Abbot Placid Solari, OSB, head of Belmont Abbey, would willingly discuss the issue with anyone who was concerned.