Belmont Abbey College Under Fire for Discrimination

Rabbi Yaacov Menken

Belmont Abbey College is a small Catholic liberal arts college in North Carolina, serving nearly 1500 students. It was founded in 1876 by the monks of the Belmont Abbey, a monastery of the Benedictine Order. The school mission is “to educate students in the liberal arts and sciences so that in all things G-d may be glorified.” It is, without question, a religious institution, guided by the dictates of the Roman Catholic Church.

In 2007, the College discovered that its employee health benefits plan inadvertently included coverage for abortion, contraception, and voluntary sterilization. The college president, William Thierfelder, immediately altered the plan, declaring that the school “is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church.” And at that point, several members of the faculty went running to the EEOC, charging “discrimination.”

If you think that government agencies take the First Amendment seriously, you should pay close attention to this case. In March, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed the charge, stating that it was “unable to conclude” that the statutes had been violated. But then, in July, the District Director of the EEOC reversed course, and claimed that Belmont Abbey is discriminating against its employees. Why? The following is an unaltered quote: “By denying prescription contraceptive drugs, Respondent is discriminating based on gender because only females take oral contraceptives. By denying coverage, men are not affected, only women.”

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