I recently received a letter in the mail from the Cardinal Newman Society that sent chills up my spine. The Cardinal Newman Society, founded in 1933, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission, according to their website, is “dedicated to renewing and strengthening Catholic identity at America’s 224 Catholic colleges and universities.” Working with students and school officials, they urge fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. This letter was sent to make us aware of Belmont Abbey College and inform us that the federal government has ruled that Belmont Abbey College must change its employee health plan in violation of the very Catholic principles upon which the College was founded.
Belmont Abbey College is a small, private, Catholic college located in North Carolina. It has been run for 130 years by Benedictine monks who have dedicated their lives to educating its students with a firm grounding in liberal arts while joyfully embracing the Catholic Faith. Recently, the administrators of the college learned that its health insurance plan mistakenly covered abortion, voluntary sterilization and contraception, clearly in opposition to the very teachings of the Catholic Church. Belmont Abbey President William Thierfelder said, “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.”
A few employees of the school objected to this change and accused the college of “gender
discrimination.” Initially, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found absolutely no evidence of gender discrimination by Belmont Abbey College. The college had no intent to discriminate against women; instead it was adhering to the principles of the Catholic faith. Mysteriously, a few weeks later at the very same time that Catholic bishops were speaking out against funding for abortion in President Obama’s health care proposals, the EEOC reversed its decision and announced the college must follow the federal government or close its doors.
Much to the chagrin of many Catholics across the nation, Obama was invited to speak at the University of Notre Dame’s commencement exercises. Many were outraged that a Catholic university would invite a defiantly pro-abortion President to address their graduating class. It was during this address that Obama claimed to respect conscientious objection on abortion rights. He had the same discussion when he met with the Pope. I recently wrote about conscience clauses and why they are important to everyone, no matter what their view of abortion or physician assisted suicide. Even for all the rhetoric to the University of Notre Dame, the Pope and other speeches he has given, his sentiments on conscience are nothing more than empty words.
The federal government is now demanding that Belmont Abbey College set policy which is fundamentally abhorrent to the very principles it exists to teach. When the federal government attempts to force its secular view on any religious institution, it has gone overboard. The religious of all faiths are being persecuted by a secular minority in this country. The rights of the religious are trampled every day by preventing any religious display of any kind on any public property. The religious of our country are prevented from prayer in school because they might offend someone. What about the fact that those that seek to pray privately are offended each and every day that they are restricted from following their beliefs? And now, the federal government is seeking to impose its will on a private institution?
What is most puzzling to this writer personally is the incredibly “thin skin” of the secular left. As a Catholic, I seek to teach my children about all different faiths and belief systems that exist: other Christian denominations, Judaism, Islam, and many others including atheism or agnosticism. My faith is so firm and sound that I am not offended by an atheist or by a Muslim that seeks to pray in public according to the Muslim faith. I seek to understand and to teach my children to understand people with all viewpoints. How else can we truly understand and comprehend the complexities and issues facing the human race every single day? Are secularists so insecure in their belief that they cannot be exposed to mine? Are they so insecure that they seek to create a country, founded upon religious freedom, where no person can have a belief different from their own? I seek to understand, secularists seek to impose their will upon me. I think not.
There are other examples of secularists seeking to discriminate against colleges that are firmly Catholic. Consider the fact that The Catholic University of America was recently censured by the American Association of University Professors for firing a supposedly “Catholic theologian” who opposed the Church’s teaching on abortion and sexuality. This censure occurred even after a court upheld the decision of the university. The ACLU threatened a lawsuit against Ave Maria University in Florida when it was founded by Tom Monaghan, founder of Dominos’ Pizza, because it included a “college town” that was created to attract Catholics who shared the college’s Catholic moral values! There are many other examples to be found as well.
The President of Belmont Abbey College has declared that he would prefer to close the school rather than go against the Catholic Church’s most fundamental beliefs. Unfortunately, I fear that is exactly what the secular left seeks! The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a law firm specializing in preserving religious freedom in our country. They have been retained by Belmont Abbey College to fight this injustice. While the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has an excellent reputation and a successful track record in fighting for religious freedom, it is also imperative that each and every citizen of every faith stand up and make your voices heard. Now. Before it is too late and we have no freedoms left at all.