Belmont Abbey sues Federal government

Belmont Abbey sues Federal government

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by TONY BURBECK / NewsChannel 36 Staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on November 18, 2011 at 6:57 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 18 at 7:01 PM

BELMONT, N.C. -- Belmont Abbey is suing the Federal government, claiming the small Catholic college cannot be forced to provide group health insurance plans which include contraceptives and voluntary sterilization.

Under the Affordable Care Act and new regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services, group health plans next fall have to include FDA approved contraception methods, voluntary sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling.

That is the opposite of what Belmont Abbey stands for, believes in and teaches its students.

The college says being forced to provide that type of group health plan goes against their religious liberties.

"Our policies must mirror out beliefs. We simply cannot do what we believe is morally wrong,” said Belmont Abbey President Bill Thierfelder.

"The tuition I'm paying for this school could actually pay for some of the students or employees to purchase contraceptives, which may cause an abortion and personally, as my beliefs hold, I don't want to pay for that,” said student Timothy Gill.

There are exceptions to the regulations, but Belmont Abbey believes those exceptions won't apply to them under the current language.

"Traditionally we'd get a religious exemption, but the exemption of this mandate is so radical and so narrowly defined that only people who almost exclusively serve and employ people of their own faith qualify,” Thierfelder said.

Belmont Abbey says the fines the small Catholic college could incur by not complying would cost them around $420,000 a year.

That number is based upon the number of employees the college has, Thierfelder said.   Thierfelder also says Belmont Abbey could be forced to terminate its current employee and student health care plan.

"There's no way we're going to do this,” Thierfelder said.

He says that means fighting all the way to the Supreme Court if needed.

Belmont Abbey is the first to sue, but hopes other colleges follow.

Planned Parenthood Health System Vice President of Public Policy Melissa Reed says to allow Belmont Abbey to opt out would set a dangerous precedent because it would undermine the Affordable Care Act and discriminate against Catholics who support the use of contraceptives as well as discriminate against Belmont Abbey employees who support the use of contraceptives as well.
 

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