- The Washington Times - Friday, August 14, 2009

A ruling by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that requires a Catholic college to include coverage for contraceptives in its employee health insurance plan is raising new concerns among Catholics about the potential impact of health care reform.

The EEOC’s district office in Charlotte, N.C., said Belmont Abbey College has discriminated against women by denying coverage of contraceptives while covering other prescription drugs. A complaint against the college was filed by eight faculty members in 2007.

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

Mr. Daniels has directed the college to reach an agreeable resolution with faculty. If this does not happen, the EEOC will advise the college’s professors on the potential for court action.

The college is expected to appeal the decision.

“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 when the complaint was filed. “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.”

Officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have been increasingly vocal about the need to protect the rights of religious employers and Catholic health care workers to refuse to recommend or participate in abortions.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, wrote to Mr. Daniels, asking him to produce “all documentation, including e-mails, office memos and the like” that are relevant to the Belmont Abbey decision.

At issue is not only the final ruling, but how it came about. Mr. Thierfelder has told employees that the EEOC notified him in March that its investigation of the faculty complaint had been closed. He said the case has been reopened without explanation.

• Patrick J. Reilly is president of the Cardinal Newman Society.

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