Tuesday, August 11, 2009

EEOC Violates Religious Liberty By Forcing Catholic College to Provide Insurance for Contraceptives

In Obama's America, sex without consequences trumps religious liberty:
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that a small Catholic college must include coverage for artificial contraceptives in its employee health insurance plan, raising new concerns about the need for conscience protections and religious exemptions in America’s health care policies.

The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) today sent a letter to EEOC acting chairman Stuart Ishimaru, noting that “it is ironic that the federal agency responsible for protecting against discrimination has so blatantly engaged in an inexcusable violation of religious liberty in its Belmont Abbey ruling.”

CNS also is sending a letter to all Catholic bishops in the United States, informing them of the EEOC action against Belmont Abbey College and highlighting the dangerous precedent this ruling sets to force Catholic employers to include contraceptive coverage in employee health plans.

“No Catholic college or other institution should be required by government to violate the Catholic Church’s clear moral teachings,” said Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society. “The apparently increasing insensitivity to religious beliefs should frighten all employers and employees. We urge religious leaders to stand in defense of Belmont Abbey College.”

In December 2007, Belmont Abbey College removed coverage for abortion, contraception and voluntary sterilization after they were accidentally included in the college’s insurance plan. Eight faculty members filed complaints with the EEOC and the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

“As a Roman Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey College is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church,” said Belmont Abbey President William Thierfelder. “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.”

The EEOC determined that Belmont Abbey has discriminated against women by denying coverage of contraception.

“By denying prescription contraception drugs, Respondent [Belmont Abbey College] is discriminating based on gender because only females take oral prescription contraceptives. By denying coverage, men are not affected, only women,” wrote Reuben Daniels Jr. in his determination as the EEOC Charlotte District Office Director.

Belmont Abbey College has been directed by the EEOC to reach an agreeable resolution with faculty. If this does not happen, Daniels will advise the parties of available enforceable court alternatives.
My Comments:
This must be that "sensible" conscience protection that Dear Leader spoke of at the Notre Dame commencement exercises.

[NOTE that at the end of Obama's Notre Dame quote regarding a "sensible conscience clause" he mentions "respect for the equality of women"; apparently, that last phrase was meant as a modifier of the first part of the statement, so that whether a particular conscience clause qualifies as "sensible" will be judged in light of whether it "respects[s] ... the equality of women", or at least "equality" as that term is interpreted by Obama's EEOC.]

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At 8/11/2009 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few points to consider (note that I am appalled by the Commission's finding):

1. If a plaintiff wants to file a lawsuit under Title VII, he or she has to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. No exceptions.

2. This is a cause finding following an investigation by an EEOC district office. Local offices issue them every day. The authority of the Commission as a whole is not behind it, and will not be unless or until the Commission decides to file suit. The district office will have to get permission to do so. It is not clear from the report that this will happen. Which brings me to

3. It is not a "directive," it is a local finding stemming from a local investigation. This is essential, because Belmont Abbey is not bound to do anything in response. The EEOC is given its authority by Congress, and they cannot enjoin an employer to do/refrain from doing anything without either the consent of the employer or a court order. Period.

4. Belmont Abbey is well within its rights to say "we disagree with your finding that discrimination occurred and believe it violates our rights as a Catholic institution." If that happens, one of two things will occur: 1. The EEOC will ask for permission to sue (which it may or may not get), or 2. it will issue a "right to sue" letter to the complaining faculty, who will have to retain private counsel in order to sue on their behalf.

Again, unless the EEOC or the faculty successfully sue(s) and gets a federal court injunction, BAC isn't bound to offer contraceptive coverage.

At 8/12/2009 8:52 AM, Anonymous Chelsea said...

Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex has an interesting post up basically alleging that in many ways the college had it coming. After all, the complaint with the EEOC was filed by faculty members - one of whom is apparently an avowed atheist who is head of their psychology department. From the post:

"For 3 decades or so, Belmont Abbey College did not care a wit for Catholic identity, when it came to the rubber hitting the road in its faculty hiring decisions. In recent years, they’ve put a new administration in place to try and clean things up, but it is questionable whether such ships as these can ever be brought back into port once they’ve gone past a certain point: as the new E.E.O.C. decision makes clear."

Of course this doesn't excuse the ruling by the EEOC. But it's not as if this was a case of the government coming in and trying to force the college to abandon its Catholic identity - it was brought on by members of the college itself.


At 8/12/2009 10:29 PM, Blogger Antony Barone Kolenc said...

I totally agree with the comments by Anonymous in "a few points to consider."

There has been much discussion and blogging about this "Determination" letter. As an attorney, I practice before the EEOC and teach discrimination law at the undergraduate level. And it is important to note that this process has just begun--the fight is far from over.

Please see my blog, "Constitutional Writes" at http://tonykolenc.blogspot.com/ for my full analysis of this issue.


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