Belmont Abbey College, North Carolina, (2009)
In 2009, the federal government accused this Roman Catholic liberal arts college of “gender discrimination” because it refused to pay for birth control as part of its employees’ health care plan. Belmont Abbey College was founded in 1876 by a congregation of Benedictine monks who built the campus by hand from bricks formed from the red clay of the North Carolina soil. The school’s motto is, “that in all things God may be glorified” (1 Peter 4:11).
In late 2007, a scrupulous employee found deep in the fine print of the college’s health care play a provision that covered abortion, contraception, and voluntary sterilization. When the president and Abbot Placid found out, they acted immediately to bring the plan into harmony with the college’s religious convictions. Eight faculty members resented this change and filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The EEOC initially concluded, in March 2009, that there was no evidence of gender discrimination. However, weeks later, the EEOC—presumably at the direction of the new administration in Washington—rescinded its decision. On July 30, 2009, the EEOC issued its revised determination, stating that “By denying prescription contraceptive drugs, [Belmont Abbey College] is discriminating based on gender because only females take oral contraceptives. By denying coverage, men are not affected, only women.”
The Becket Fund quickly entered the fray to defend Belmont Abbey’s rights of conscience. We not only joined their legal team, we took their story to the streets, outing the government’s outrageous actions. On the radio, in newspapers, World Magazine, and the Weekly Standard, we let it be known that “[t]he EEOC’s action is a direct assault on the principle of conscientious objection itself, and we will resist it vigorously.”
We haven’t heard a peep since.
Becket Fund White Paper (October 2009)