Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius (2011-Current)
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represents Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic liberal arts college founded by Benedictine monks, in a lawsuit against the federal government to protect Belmont Abbey’s right to be true to its principles. As a Catholic college, Belmont Abbey teaches that contraception, sterilization, and abortion are against God’s law.
So in August 2011, when the federal government issued a regulation requiring that all group health plans must cover “[FDA-]approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity,” Belmont Abbey knew it could not be true to both the government mandate and its Church’s teachings. This is so because FDA-approved contraceptives include a number of drugs Belmont Abbey, and many scientists, consider to be abortifacients—most notably Plan B and Ella. Were Belmont Abbey to choose not to cover contraception and sterilization as required by the government mandate, it would be penalized with a hefty fine and forced to terminate its health insurance for employees and students. For example, a religious organization with 100 employees would have to pay the federal government $140,000 per year for the “privilege” of not underwriting medical services it believes are immoral. In other words, Belmont Abbey would be forced to pay for the right to remain true to its principles!
Although the government regulation includes an exemption from the mandate for certain religious employers, Belmont Abbey believes that it will not be exempted from the mandate’s requirements. The exemption is extremely narrow, covering only certain religious employers whose purpose is to inculcate religious values and who primarily serve and employ those of their same faith.
Belmont Abbey’s only recourse is to sue the federal government and ask the court to protect its First Amendment and federal statutory rights from this substantial burden by the federal government.
On December 18, 2012 the D.C. Circuit Court of appeals handed an intermediate victory to the religious colleges when they commanded HHS to act quickly to fix the HHS Mandate.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Emily Hardman, Communications Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202.349.7224.
- Media Essentials
- Case Timeline
- Legal Documents
- In the news
- Video and Images
- Still Unacceptable and Unconstitutional - BF (February 1, 2013)
- Federal Appeals Court Hands Victory to Religious Colleges, Commands HHS to Act Quickly to Fix Mandate - BF (December 18, 2012)
- Appeal to DC Circuit: Christian Colleges “Suffering Present Harm” (October 5, 2012)
- Granted Motion of Expedited Appeal – US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit (September 20, 2012)
- Comments on the NPRM (April 8, 2013)
- D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Order (December 18, 2012)
- Briefing Schedule – US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit (September 20, 2012)
- Becket Fund’s Motion to Reconsider (July 23, 2012)
- Judge Boasberg’s Opinion (July 18, 2012)
- Becket Fund’s Response to Motion to Dismiss (April 23, 2012)
- DOJ’s Motion to Dismiss (February 16, 2012)
- Becket Fund Comments to HHS (September 2011)
- Complaint: Belmont Abbey College v. Kathleen Sebelius
November 10, 2011 – The Becket Fund files a suit against the federal government on behalf of Belmont Abbey College over the Affordable Care Act, that forces the College to violate its deeply-held religious beliefs or pay a severe fine.
January 20, 2012 – The Obama administration refuses to change the controversial rule that requires religious institutions to pay for contraceptive drugs. Instead, the administration merely delayed the effective date of the rule by one year.
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Order (December 18, 2012)
DOJ’s Brief in Wheaton/BAC - D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (November 5, 2012)
Becket Fund’s Opening Appeal Brief - D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (October 5, 2012)
Granted Motion of Expedited Appeal – US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit (September 20, 2012)
Briefing Schedule – US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit (September 20, 2012)
Becket Fund’s Motion to Reconsider (July 23, 2012)
Judge Boasberg’s Opinion (July 18, 2012)
Becket Fund’s Response to Motion to Dismiss (April 23, 2012)
DOJ’s Motion to Dismiss (February 16, 2012)
Complaint: Belmont Abbey College v. Kathleen Sebelius
Amicus Briefs Filed in Support of Belmont Abbey and Wheaton Colleges
- 13 States (Texas, Nebraska, Michigan, Indiana, Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, Ohio, Georgia, Virginia, Colorado, South Carolina, and Idaho)
- The Catholic University of America, The Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
- Women Speak for Themselves
- The Cato Institute, the American Civil Rights Union, and the Chapman University Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence
- The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Catholic Medical Association, The National Catholic Bioethics Center, Physicians for Life, and the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses
- Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, Patrick Henry College, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic of the Anglican Church in North America, Queens Federation of Churches, National Association of Evangelicals, Association of Christian Schools International, Christian Medical Association, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Prison Fellowship Ministries, Association of Rescue Gospel Missions and Christian Legal Society
- Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund
- The American Center for Law and Justice, and Regent University
- Alliance Defending Freedom–Universities and Businesses
More of Belmont Abbey lawsuit in the news:
Religious schools claim ‘major victory’ after ruling on contraception mandate, Fox News (12-19-2012)
Obama must rewrite contraception mandate to accommodate religious liberty, Washington Examiner (12-19-2012)
Federal court to hear appeal on Belmont Abbey College’s HHS lawsuit, Catholic News Herald (11-9-2012)
Contraception Mandate’s ‘Safe Harbor’ Not Safe, Appeals Court Told, The Christian Post (10-6-2012)
2-17-2012, Obama administration asks for delay in fight over contraception coverage, Bill Mears, CNN
2-17-2012, Belmont Abbey President slams contraception rule, Franco Ordonez, The Charlotte Observer
2-15-2012, The legal case against the contraceptives mandate, Sarah Kliff, Washington Post
1-20-2012, Belmont Abbey’s lawsuit continues — lawyers call contraception rule a ‘coercive action’, Catholic News Herald
12-13-2011, At Belmont Abbey, Catholics Fight Back, Gerald J. Russello, Crisis Magazine
12-2-2011, Insurance Rule Violates Religious Rights, Sarah Torres, Texas Daily
12-1-2011, Will the President Protect Religious Rights?, Ericka Andersen, The Foundry
RADIO: 11-21-2011, Q&A With Lori Windham of the Becket Fund on Belmont Abbey Challenging President Obama’s Health Care Plan, North Carolina’s Morning News With Brian Freeman
11-19-2011, College shouldn’t be forced to offer a plan that conflicts with beliefs, Gaston Gazette
RADIO: 11-18-2011, Hannah Smith on Morning Air with Sean Herriott, Relevant Radio
11-11-2011, Religious College Sues to Challenge New Federal Regs on Insurance Coverage For Women, Howard Friedman, Religion Clause
11-11-2011, Catholic college sues over contraception mandate, Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
11-11-2011, Belmont Abbey Sues U.S. Government Over Contraception Mandate, Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register
11-11-2011, Catholic college sues over contraception mandate, Patricia L. Guilfoyle, Catholic News Service
11-10-2011, Belmont College Abbey sues over coverage-mandate, Rick Garnett, Mirror of Justice
12-15-2011, Rep. Chris Smith, Montserrat Avarado, Bill Donohue with Raymond Arroyo, World Over, EWTN (Belmont Abbey segment begins at 10:00)
11-8-2011, Belmont Abbey College Sues Federal Government Over Contraception Mandate, Audrina Bigos, WCCB Fox – Charlotte
11-18-2011, Belmont Abbey Sues Federal Government, Tony Burbeck, WCNC NBC – Charlotte