Friday, November 11, 2011

Religious College Sues To Challenge New Federal Regs On Insurance Coverage For Women

A Benedictine Catholic liberal arts college located in North Carolina filed suit yesterday challenging on 1st Amendment, RFRA and other grounds federal regulations issued in August that require all group health insurance plans to cover FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and counseling for women with reproductive capacity. While certain religious employers are exempt from the requirements, that exemption is too narrow to cover many religiously sponsored colleges. (See prior posting.) The complaint (full text) in Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius, (D DC, filed 11/10/2011), alleges in part:
Plaintiff Belmont Abbey College is a small religious college, whose religious beliefs forbid it from participating in, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting contraception, sterilization, or abortion..... The government’s Mandate unconstitutionally coerces Belmont Abbey College to violate its deeply-held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines and penalties. The Mandate also forces Belmont Abbey College to fund government-dictated speech that is directly at odds with its own speech and religious teachings. Having to pay a fine to the taxing authorities for the privilege of practicing one’s religion or controlling one’s own speech is un-American,unprecedented, and flagrantly unconstitutional.
Becket Fund issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.