The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a lawsuit today on behalf of Belmont Abbey College against the Obama administration, citing the HHS mandate requiring the college to provide insurance coverage including contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, the Becket Fund announced in a press release.
Belmont Abbey College was the first institution to sue the Obama administration over the HHS mandate in 2011. The judge dismissed the original case citing the administration's unfulfilled promise to amend the regulations to allow for faith-based exemptions, and thereby deeming the college's lawsuit premature. As Catholic Education Daily reported in July 2012, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said in that decision, "Belmont’s injury is too speculative to confer standing and that the case is also not ripe for decision.”
He continued, “At the end of the day, the Court offers no opinion on the merits of the current contraception-coverage regulations or any proposed future ones. If Plaintiff (Belmont Abbey) is displeased by the ultimate regulations, it may certainly renew its suit at that time. All the court holds here is that Belmont has no basis to proceed now.”
The Obama administration has since granted an exemption from the mandate for religious employers, but the language excludes religious colleges, hospitals, and many other charitable organizations.
In the lawsuit filed today, the Becket Fund is defending Belmont Abbey College and its freedom to provide insurance coverage that it considers to be morally acceptable in accordance with Catholic teaching.
"As with the 82 other lawsuits against the mandate, Belmont Abbey is being forced to pay for its First Amendment right to practice its religious freedom," said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund and lead counsel for Belmont, in today's press release. "The government has lots of ways to distribute contraceptives if it wants to--forcing monks to do it is completely unnecessary."
Abbot Placid Solari, chancellor of Belmont Abbey College, said in the same release that religious freedom is a "fundamental right of all American citizens." He said religious freedom "has enabled our Benedictine community to found and operate our college according to the principles of our Catholic faith for one hundred and thirty-seven years.
"We cannot abandon these principles at the whim of the government without destroying the distinct mission of the school as well as the fundamental rights we enjoy in this country," Abbot Placid said.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing many Catholic dioceses, colleges, and other organizations against the HHS mandate.
Belmont Abbey College is recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity.
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