College challenges Obamacare for violating religious rights

By WND Staff

Barack Obama

By Joseph Arminio

WASHINGTON – A number of critics of Obamacare, the president’s signature health care decision-making takeover, have argued that the plan actually violates the religious rights of American groups by forcing Christians to pay for abortions.

Among those who have issued such alarms are U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann, Michael Burgess and Louie Gohmert.

Now the same claims are carrying a little different weight; they’re being made in a lawsuit being brought by Belmont Abbey College of Belmont, N.C., against Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the federal agency, and others.

Phil Kent, chief of the American Seniors Association, told WND that there undoubtedly will be more claims filed in court against Obamacare on the grounds of religious persecution in the United States.

Burgess, a Texas congressman, was for 30 years a practicing physician and has written “Doctor In The House.” He told WND that Obama’s health care creation is “unknown and in flux” and the regulations that will be developed to support it are a danger.

It was just a few weeks ago the North Carolina college filed its case against the new health care regulations, saying it will be forced to buy contraceptives for its students in contravention of Catholic teaching.

It was estimated the college could be subject to $400,000 in penalties if it does not comply with the new Health and Human Services regulations, including if it does not pay for all FDA-approved contraceptives, such as Plan B (morning after pill) and Ella (week after pill).

Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Center said in 2010 Ella is similar to the abortion pill RU-486 and capable of “destroying a life growing in [a] womb.” Such an abortifacient would violate the college’s religious teachings.

Emily Hardman, speaking on behalf of the Becket Fund, which is representing Belmont Abbey College in court, said to WND, “Obamacare strikes at the heart of religious liberty.”

Furthermore, “Usually there are religious exemptions [in these federal health care bills], but this new bill is so narrow that even the ministry of Christ would not qualify.”

Hardman said more than 100,000 complaints, drawn from large associations (e.g. Coalition of Christian Colleges), individual universities and colleges, and concerned citizens, have been unloaded on the government, after Health and Human Services posted the new Obamacare regulations.

Becket said, “Were Belmont Abbey to choose not to cover contraception and sterilization as required by the government mandate, it would be penalized with a hefty fine and forced to terminate its health insurance for employees and students. For example, a religious organization with 100 employees would have to pay the federal government $140,000 per year for the ‘privilege’ of not underwriting medical services it believes are immoral. In other words, Belmont Abbey would be forced to pay for the right to remain true to its principles!”

The organization noted that, “Although the government has already provided thousands of waivers for a variety of special interest groups including McDonald’s and teachers’ unions, often for reasons of commercial convenience, it refused to accommodate religious organizations.”

“A monk at Belmont Abbey may preach on Sunday that pre-marital sex, contraception, and abortions are immoral, but on Monday, the government would force the same monk to pay for students to receive the very drugs and procedures he denounces,” said Hannah Smith, senior legal counsel at Becket.

The complaint explains: “Had Belmont Abbey Colleges’ religious beliefs been obscure or unknown, the government’s actions might have been an accident. But because the government acted with full knowledge of those beliefs, and because it allows plans not to cover these services for a wide range of reasons other than religion, the mandate can be interpreted as nothing other than a deliberate attack by the government on the religious beliefs of Belmont Abbey College and millions of other Americans.”

It cites the federal government’s violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, and it alleges intentional discrimination and claims that Washington is creating a discrimination among religions and a selective burden or denominational preference. It also alleges compelled speech and a violation of expressive association rights.

Obamacare already is scheduled to be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, but on the grounds that the requirement to purchase insurance is an unconstitutional mandate.