EEOC rules that Catholic college's refusal to offer insurance coverage of contraception to be discriminatory

Belmont Abbey College is a Catholic university in North Carolina that continues the Benedictine tradition of education dating from St. Benedict’s founding of Monte Cassino in the early 500’s AD. You have only to look at the first page of the web site to see that they are not shy about their connection to the Catholic Church and their dedication to education with an eye toward the moral teachings of the faith. They are resolute that their approach should adhere to the teachings of the Church and they consider that to be one of the main features of their approach. Belmont Abbey has been in continuous operation for 130 years so none of what I’ve said thus far should be a surprise to anyone who knows about the college in general.

A couple of years ago the college’s administrative staff discovered that the medical insurance package the school had purchased for its employees offered coverage for abortion, prescription contraceptives, and elective surgery for sterilization. All of these are in violation of the Catholic Church’s teachings and the school moved immediately to rescind such cover. College President William Thierfelder wrote at the time that Belmont Abbey, considering its connection with the Church and the clear objective of offering an environment of learning within the scope of Church teaching, was “not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church.” As a result of that action, 8 employees filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC against the college alleging that failure to provide contraception coverage amounted to sexual discrimination. The EEOC has ruled they are correct.

“By denying prescription contraceptive drugs, [the college] is discriminating based on gender because only females take oral prescription contraceptives,” the EEOC wrote in a letter to the North Carolina college. “By denying coverage, men are not affected, only women.”

Ridiculous. The only reason men don’t take an oral contraceptive is that no one’s made one yet. And the school’s position is that they don’t cover contraception – period – regardless of the form it takes. If doctors had to write prescriptions for condoms so that men could get them, Belmont Abbey wouldn’t cover those, either. The school’s policy is not discriminatory simply because the medical approaches to contraception differ based on gender. The policy applies to everyone and for every contraceptive technology that exists today or will be developed in the future.

The employees of an institution that has made clear its stance of adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church for over 100 years have absolutely no excuse for being surprised about this. If they honestly thought that working at such a place was just going to be a job like any other – sterilized of religious expression and homogenized of any moral definition – then they were either kidding themselves or being negligently and willfully blind. The college has not made it mandatory that its employees not partake of contraception they’ve just said they aren’t going to pay for it. Employees that wish to continue using contraception can do so, they just have to pay for it themselves. That policy applies to all employees regardless of gender and that’s the definition of a non-discriminatory policy. The EEOC has issued a clearly biased ruling and, in doing so, have abused their power in an effort to force an action on an institution that directly violates their religious beliefs.

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2 comments

  1. “The school’s policy is not discriminatory simply because the medical approaches to contraception differ based on gender.”

    The problem with your argument is that men don’t get pregnant. Pregnancy does not affect a working man’s career the way it affect’s a working woman’s. That is the reason this is a gender issue.

  2. I think it is beyond peculiar that the administration didn’t know what was in the health plan. Hadn’t it been in the plan for many years?

    Some of the eight have indicated that they were assured when they were hired that their lack of a Catholic faith would not affect their employment. Should they have been aware that these assurances were, in fact, empty?

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