Monday, October 19, 2009

The Secular Inquisition Attacks The Catholic Church

Yesterday we discussed a small victory that could lead to greater victories in the future. Marc Lamont Hill, radical racist, will no longer be a featured commentator on Fox News Channel. Now I want to address a small temporary defeat which must be rectified before it becomes a big permanent defeat. The EEOC in North Carolina has launched a direct attack on the religious tenets of the Catholic Church at a Catholic institution devoted almost exclusively to promoting Catholic education.

At the end of July, in a small, nearly unnoticed decision in Charlotte, North Carolina the EEOC inexplicably reversed an earlier ruling it had made about the employee contraceptive prescription health coverage at Belmont Abbey College. The Commission had originally held that the Abbey was a religious institution, devoted to Catholic doctrine while teaching a traditional college curriculum. The school was found to be intimately guided by Catholic doctrine, rather than incidentally (like the University of Notre Dame, which has become a largely secular institution). The school is even located on the grounds of the Abbey from which it derives its name.

As a mainstream Lutheran, I obviously have no axe to grind when it comes to the birth control issue. Lutherans have no objection to birth control, and the issue is left to the individual conscience. But the Catholic Church holds a deep and abiding religious belief that birth control by artificial means is immoral and in direct conflict with Catholic theology. And though I disagree on doctrine, I deeply respect what is clearly a religious belief which must be protected by the government, not attacked by it.

The EEOC was originally brought into the conflict when the trustees discovered that their medical insurance contract provided for coverage of drugs and surgical methods to prevent contraception. They re-negotiated the contract to exclude such coverage, citing the religious exemption rules of the federal and North Carolina statutes. And of course, some disgruntled employees of the Abbey who are apparently not strict Catholics, objected to the re-negotiated contract. At the initial, and supposedly final hearing, the EEOC found that the school was on solid constitutional ground.

Five months later, under pressure from several "civil rights" groups including NARAL and Planned Parenthood, the EEOC summarily sent a letter to the Abbey stating: "The Commission has made a determination that the Abbey's new contract violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and by denying prescription contraceptive drugs the college is discriminating based on gender because only females take oral prescription contraceptives." The new decision was both unexpected and undeniably unwelcome.

The reversal was based on seriously-flawed grounds, but since it had added the element of "gender discrimination" the Commission felt that there was no necessity of addressing the reversal of its original finding of a religious exemption. The previous decision had addressed only the contraception itself, not the gender of the person taking the prescribed medication. Needless to say, the Abbey immediately questioned why the religious exemption which had applied to the original decision would not also apply to the persons taking the prescription medication, since the sex of the patient is an irrelevant distinction without a difference.

As for the religious exemption, the original findings of the Commission were very clear. They had found that the school was a religious institution closely affiliated with a specific religious order. Almost all the teachers at the school are Benedictine Catholic monks. This was not a case of an "incidental" contact with religion. The connection was direct, palpable, and doctrinal.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has stepped in on behalf of the Abbey. Becket spokesman Eric Kniffin stated: "this is the first time that an unelected bureaucrat has expounded a novel theory of law in this fashion and applied it to a 150 year old small religious college in North Carolina." At present, the Fund and the monks are attempting to negotiate a different holding from the Commission. But if they fail, the only alternatives are to submit or sue the Commission. Though nobody acting on behalf of the school has said what they will do next, it is unlikely that the Abbey will submit to the ruling.

As it presently stands, the ruling violates the conscience-clause statutes of nearly half the states (including North Carolina), but federal precedent as well. The economic end of the decision is plainly ridiculous. It would save the school about $350 per year for each female who is presently denied the prescription coverage. But since it is exclusively females who are affected (although I'm sure there are plenty of boyfriends and husbands who might dispute that), the anti-religious forces found a nebulous thread of law to hang themselves from.

Despite what the Church's stand on pregnancy of unwed mothers may be, the school has never sought to deny medical coverage to pregnant unmarried women. Only women get pregnant, at least the last time I looked, so gender discrimination obviously is a phony issue. Likewise, the Abbey has never opposed coverage for fertility treatment, which also affects women only. The gender issue is obviously a red herring thrown out by the Commission to distract from its true purpose--another nail in the coffin of religious freedom.

The usual suspects have had a hand in this Commission's decision. Ignoring Supreme Court and Appellate Court rulings to the contrary, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Mars) along with 29 other leftists signed an amicus curiae brief urging the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals to make contraceptive coverage mandatory under Title VII. Did I forget to mention that Olympia Snowe (RINO-Maine) also signed the brief?

But what was the crucial difference that motivated the Commission into making the move it made when it made it? Simple. While Democrat presidents who appoint commission members have held office, the commissions have specifically attempted to enforce the provision that prescription contraceptives belong in every employee health plan, or else. Well--guess who's president. Yet the hook on which they hang their hat is Title VII, "The Pregnancy Discrimination Act." This act had nothing to do with preventing pregnancy, and was designed solely to protect women who are already pregnant. They are not to be discriminated against, nor can they be denied medical coverage for all the incidents of pregnancy. The Abbey has never attempted to deny that coverage, and has no intention of ever doing so. The attempt to connect pregnancy coverage to contraceptive coverage is both insane and dangerous. There is no Title XXX, "The Contraceptive Discrimination Act" for the anti-religion forces to utilize, so they found one that at least mentions pregnancy. Nothing short of disingenuous.

For those of you who are members of old line mainstream Protestant denominations who are asking yourselves "how does this affect me?" consider this. When the police show up to arrest your pastor for serving your twelve year old taking First Communion sacramental wine on the ground that he is serving intoxicating spirits to minors, you will have your answer. The above issue isn't about gender discrimination and the Protestant example isn't about wine. It's simply another attempt by the leftist/secularists to nullify the freedom of religion provisions of the First Amendment.

First they came for the Catholics, and I did nothing, because I wasn't a Catholic.


Writer X said...

I wonder how aggressive the EEOC (and the politicians) would have been had this been an Islamic school. Perhaps Abbey College should simply change its name to Mosque College? It's always easiest to pick on the Catholics.

AndrewPrice said...

This is just another example of how they talk about not imposing anything on churches, and then they do it. Despicable.

Not to mention, what right does anyone have to receive a particular type of health care from their employer?

My dealing with the EEOC have shown them to be utterly incompetent. They don't seem to understand their own laws. They enforce them selectively. And like most government agencies, you will die of old age before you get any answers from this.

patti said...

last week i said to those thinking the attack on rush had nothing to do with them, "first they came for the jews and i said nothing...."

frightening times, my friend.

BevfromNYC said...

See, this is what I keep warning my Liberal friends about and they keep assuring me that these kinds of situation will never happen.

Writer X: Here is an answer to your question. The NYC school system will allow prayer in school for one group - Muslims. In several schools they set up special prayer rooms for Ramadan.

LawHawk, Just wanted to point out that many of the Protestant religions use grape juice for Communion because wine is a considered sinful. So they would be safe from prosecution.

FYI - Shouldn't that be Title VIVIVI?

BevfromNYC said...

Writer X: You are right, it is easy to pick on the Catholics because they are have always been very clear what they will and will not allow. I point out to my lapsed Catholic friends who are frustrated by the Church's stand on abortion that it took the them 500 years to finally admit that Galileo was right and the Earth revolves around the Sun. Don't expect them to cave anytime soon abortion.

StanH said...

The EEOCs complete reason for existence is to hassle businesses or institutions that don’t follow their secular leftist dogma. This is one of the many nanny state bureaucracies that need to go the way of the DoDo bird, mind your own business Barry!

MegaTroll said...

So typical of the democraps. They hate every institution except the UN.

Tennessee Jed said...

My first reaction after reading this was to think about guys like Tim Robbins and his infamous "chill wind" blowing statement. Now we all know how easy it is to be just a little hypocritical in things political, but cannot recall a situation where anybody was targeted for their politics. As an example, people like Natalie Mains get confused with the difference between censorship and people choosing to not play her records on their radio station. But it looks like the current administration really is looking to silence, marginalize, isolate and destroy their opponents.

I do recognize the government has some right to limit freedom of religious practice where such pracice conflicts with existing laws such as, say, the ritual sacrifice of four year old children. This case, on the other hand seems to be right in line with the very worst tendencies of the Obama administration.

DCAlleyKat said...

What the college should do is change it's benefit policy, notify all employess that beginning ninety days from now all healthcare packages will be cancelled, thus freeing employees to choose for themselves whether spend their own money on their own healthcare or no. Follow-up memo - All employees will get a pay raise.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: How about "Mosque of the Noble Q'Uran and Falafel House?" We all know that the EEOC won't go after any group which will kill them for doing so.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: Typical governmental reasoning. Nobody (yet) is required to provide health insurance for employees (outside of certain liberal cities such as San Francisco and a couple of fruitcake states), but once the Church did so, that meant everything had to be perfectly equal in every way, even if it makes no sense and flies directly in the face of fundmental religious beliefs.

LawHawkSF said...

Patti: These are indeed perilous times. Every religion except Islam is fair game for rigid secularists who hate the First Amendment.

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: You're right, and that's why I mentioned certain old-line Protestant denominations. Many do use grape juice. So they'll arrest them for giving children beverages with too much sugar, thereby endangering their physical health for the rest of their lives. You definitely got Title VIVIVI right.

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: The EEOC is just the oldest and most successful of the socialist agencies out to maintain equality of outcome regardless of facts, situations or personal wishes.

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: The test that evolved over the years at the Supreme Court was "excessive government intrusion in the practice of religion protected under the First Amendment." As you say, ritual killing of children is something that the government is allowed to intervene in and prevent. Health Care has no such standing, and has been used to bludgeon a purely religious organization into obeying purely secular rules which have no Constitutional basis.

LawHawkSF said...

DCAlleyKat: I know what you're saying, but there are two problems with it. First, it takes the Catholic Charity's ability to have a top-notch health policy for their members just to dodge an oppressive ruling by a scummy agency. Second, the Obamists have already recognized that some employers might do exactly that, so his people are preparing special tax consequences for both the company giving the raise in lieu of medical coverage, and for the employees who accept the raise and buy a good health plan.

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