Becket Fund Files Lawsuit for Belmont Abbey College Against Controversial HHS Mandate

Image: Becket Fund Files Lawsuit for Belmont Abbey College Against Controversial HHS Mandate

For Immediate Release: November 20, 2013
Media Contact:  Emily Hardman, ehardman@becketfund.org, 202.349.7224

Washington, D.C. – Today the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a lawsuit on behalf of Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic liberal arts college founded by Benedictine monks, against the administration’s HHS mandate. Belmont Abbey College now faces hefty IRS fines unless it complies with the mandate’s requirement to provide its employees with contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs that violate its Catholic beliefs.

“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 one hundred and thirty-seven 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,” said Abbot Placid Solari, Chancellor of the College and Abbot of Belmont Abbey. 

The Becket Fund is defending Belmont Abbey College’s right to continue providing its employees with health benefits that are consistent with its Catholic faith.  Though the government allows “religious employer” exemptions from the mandate for churches and certain related entities, that exemption excludes most religious colleges, hospitals, and nursing homes.

“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 and lead counsel for Belmont Abbey College. “Any definition of “religious employer” that excludes monks instilling religion is baffling.”

Founded in 1876 by the Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey, Belmont Abbey College strives to carry out a simple mission: “That in all things God may be glorified.” As a Catholic liberal arts college, Belmont Abbey upholds the teachings of the Catholic Church, including the respect for all human life. Participating in a system to provide services such as contraception, sterilization, and abortion pills would contradict the Catholic mission it seeks to advance. Belmont Abbey must now choose to either comply with the mandate and violate its convictions – or pay massive fines to the I.R.S.

“As with the 82 other lawsuits against the mandate, Belmont Abbey is being forced to pay for its First Amendment right to practice its religious freedom,” said Rienzi.  “The government has lots of ways to distribute contraceptives if it wants to—forcing monks to do it is completely unnecessary.”

The Becket Fund is also representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, Christian Brothers Services, Guidestone Financial Resources, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, Eternal Word Television Network, Houston Baptist University, Ave Maria University, and Wheaton College in similar lawsuits.  There are 82 lawsuits challenging the mandate.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law, and they recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Emily Hardman, Communications Director, at ehardman@becketfund.org or call 202.349.7224.

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