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Belmont Abbey College Thrilled by Supreme Court Decision on Hobby Lobby Case

BELMONT, N.C. (June 30, 2014) — “Belmont Abbey College was the first organization to sue the federal government over the HHS mandate’s infringement on its religious freedom. Therefore, today’s Supreme Court decision is an especially meaningful victory that sends a clear message to the current administration that our freedom is a God given right and cannot be usurped by any group or individual,” said Belmont Abbey College President Dr. Bill Thierfelder. “With the continuing help of the Becket Fund, we are inspired to fight on and we are confident that the resolution of our case will further help to ensure religious freedom for all.”

The U.S. Supreme Court granted a landmark victory for religious liberty today, ruling in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that individuals do not lose their religious freedom when they open a family business. The court ruled 5-4 in favor of David and Barbara Green and their family business, Hobby Lobby, ruling that they will not be required to violate their faith by including four potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in the company’s health insurance plan or pay severe fines.

As Barbara Green said today in celebration: “The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith. We are grateful to God and to those who have supported us on this difficult journey.”

On November 30, 2013 the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a lawsuit on behalf of Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic liberal arts college founded by Benedictine monks, against the administration’s HHS mandate. “It is heartening that the Supreme Court has upheld the right to the free exercise of religion guaranteed to American citizens by the First Amendment to the Constitution. We are confident that our 138 year-old Benedictine community will be able to continue to operate our college, as we always have, in accordance with the faith and teachings of the Catholic Church,” said Abbot Placid Solari, chancellor of Belmont Abbey College.

Today’s decision has important implications for over 50 pending lawsuits brought by non-profit religious organizations, such as Belmont Abbey College. In two different respects, the Supreme Court strongly signaled that the mandate may be struck down in those cases too. First, it rejected the government’s argument that there was no burden on the Green’s religious exercise because only third parties use the drugs. Second, it held that the government could simply pay for contraception coverage with its own funds, rather than requiring private employers to do so.

“This is a landmark decision for religious freedom. The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby and Belmont Abbey College. “The handwriting is on the wall,” said Windham. “The Court has strongly signaled that the mandate is in trouble in the non-profit cases, too.” The Belmont Abbey College case is now stayed and awaiting decisions from other cases in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Founded in 1876 by the Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey, Belmont Abbey College strives to carry out a simple mission: “That in all things God may be glorified.” As a Catholic liberal arts college, Belmont Abbey upholds the teachings of the Catholic Church, including the respect for all human life. Participating in a system to provide services such as contraception, sterilization, and abortion pills would contradict the clear and authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church and thus severely compromise the mission and identity of Belmont Abbey College.

Monday, June 30, 2014|Categories: News, TopNews||

Belmont Abbey College Hires New Track & Field, Cross Country Coach

Jay Phillips Main 300x199 Belmont Abbey College Hires New Track & Field, Cross Country Coach

Jay Phillips (right) will coach Track & Field and Cross Country at Belmont Abbey College.

BELMONT, N.C. (June 27, 2014) –  Belmont Abbey Director of Athletics Stephen Miss announced today the appointment of Jay Phillips as Head Men’s & Women’s Track & Field & Cross Country Coach at Belmont Abbey College. Phillips comes to Belmont Abbey from Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where he was the Associate Head Coach for Cross Country & Track & Field for eight years.

“It gives me great joy to be invited into the Abbey family,” Phillips said. “The Abbey is at the forefront of uniting athletic excellence with virtue, and for anyone who is moved by that purpose, there is no better place to call home. I can’t wait to meet, work with and mentor the young men and women God is gathering to this program.”

“We are thrilled to have Jay and his family join the Belmont Abbey College community,” Miss said. “Coach Phillips is a tremendous addition to our ever-improving staff, and we believe that his unique background is ideally suited to mentor and lead our young women.  Coach Phillips possesses a spiritual, academic, and athletic skill set that will enable him to articulate and to promote the ‘sport properly directed’ initiatives that are central to Crusader Athletics.”

During his tenure at Mount Saint Mary’s, Phillips guided the sprinters and hurdlers to multiple NCAA Division I National Championship qualifications. His athletes earned numerous IC4A and ECAC Championship all-east honors and dozens of championship qualifications.  His athletes broke eight school records, three Northeast Conference records, earned 20 NEC championship wins, two NEC Rookie of the Year honors, 34 NEC All-Conference honors, and 2 NEC Most Outstanding Track Athlete of the Year awards.

In 2010, Phillips started a “Faith and Athletics” program at Mount Saint Mary’s designed to integrate student-athletes vocation in sport with their call to live a virtuous life.  In 2005, Phillips earned his bachelor’s degree from Mount Saint Mary’s in theology and received two prestigious academic awards the Flanagan Memorial Prize and the Sheridan Award. Phillips earned his master’s degree from Mount Saint Mary’s in theology in 2008 and was a lecturer in the undergraduate theology department from 2008 until 2014.

As an athlete, Phillips was one of the Mount’s distinguished sprinters who consistently led the team on and off the track.  A member of the Mount’s all-time top sprinters’ list, he was also a member of the Mount’s All-East 4x400m relay team that still holds the school record.

Phillips and his wife, Dale, were married in 2006. The couple has two children, Adelaide (Addie) and Isaiah.

Founded in 1876 by Benedictine monks, Belmont Abbey College focuses on the development of the whole person in mind, body and spirit. Located just 10 miles west of Charlotte, N.C., the College is currently home to more than 1600 students.  For more information, visit belmontabbeycollege.edu or abbeyathletics.com.

Friday, June 27, 2014|Categories: News, TopNews||

A Judge’s Reversal and Catholic Health Care Ethics

Grattan Brown, S.T.D.

In the sad story of Casey Kasem’s final days, Judge Daniel Murphy was right to require doctors to feed Kasem and right to reverse that decision a few days later.

Grattan Brown 010 300x200 A Judge’s Reversal and Catholic Health Care Ethics

I remember Casey Kasem’s voice so well. Just that memory made it sad to imagine the suffering he endured. He suffered from dementia, from the inability to speak, and from all that goes with being bedridden. Because his particular condition, Lewy body dementia, is difficult to diagnose, he likely suffered from not really knowing what he had.

He also suffered from his family members fighting over him and from having been “stolen” by his wife and hidden from his children and friends during his final weeks of life. Finally, he was the subject of court battles, including one in which the judge had to assign different visitation times to his wife and to his children. In the end, he suffered from a judge’s having to decide between his children’s demand to remove his feeding tube so that he would die and his wife’s demand to continue feeding him so that he would continue to live

At first, Judge Murphy ordered that feeding be continued. Then within 48 hours, Judge Murphy reversed his decision and ruled that feeding could be discontinued. From media reports, we do not know exactly why Judge Murphy reversed his judgment. It could be that Judge Murphy initially thought feeding appropriate for someone like Kasem, who was in an extremely debilitated condition, and then changed his mind. If so, feeding could be withdrawn from a patient who is expected to live but not improve, which would end the patient’s life. Some would call this euthanasia.

Or it could be the Judge Murphy based both judgments on consistent ethical principles, rather than a change of mind about a controversial practice. According to media reports, the judge based his final decision on a review of Kasem’s medical records, which by law are not made public. If those records showed that artificial nutrition and hydration could no longer have prolonged Kasem’s life or perhaps could not have been absorbed by his body, then the judge’s reversal simply allowed the withdrawal of a treatment that could no longer do its work, or had even become harmful to Kasem’s body. Kasem seems to have been in this condition because he died only a few days after withdrawal, while patients whose bodies have been absorbing nourishment typically live longer, as Terri Schiavo did for a couple of weeks after withdrawal. The judge’s reversal seems to have been following this rationale.

If so, it cuts against a rather disturbing trend in end-of-life care. Daughter Kerri Kasem sought withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration because her father’s advanced directive indicated that he would not want it if continued life “would result in a mere biological existence, devoid of cognitive function, with no reasonable hope for normal functioning.” Through his advanced directive, Casey Kasem was asking for death even at times when he would have continued to live, though in an extremely disabled state. By initially refusing to withdraw feeding, Judge Murphy declined to cooperate in bringing about Kasem’s death. It appears likely that, from the evidence initially presented to him, the judge had to assume that Kasem would continue to live and that withdrawing nutrition and hydration would cause his death.

The difficult question is precisely that: whether causing a patient’s death, by withdrawing nutrition and hydration, is a morally acceptable way for our society to relieve suffering. Descriptions such as “mere biological existence” are not helpful because they mask the human dignity that no condition can take away. I doubt that experienced caregivers of the severely disabled would consider their patients’ existence to be merely “biological” because those patients have permanently lost consciousness. It is easy to see Kasem’s wife, Jean, as completely irrational after seeing that ridiculous meat tossing video. Yet if anything in her bizarre behavior comes from a willingness to care for a severely disabled man, I will give her some credit for authentic love.

When the judge reversed his decision, it was not based on some sudden agreement with Kasem’s children to end their father’s life. Instead, he based it on a review of Kasem’s medical records, which perhaps showed that the celebrity’s body was no longer absorbing food, or that his lungs were aspirating fluid, or that death was imminent within a few days.

It is telling that a Catholic institution, St. Anthony Hospital, provided Kasem’s final care. Catholics have wrestled for several decades with when to provide and when to withdraw artificial nutrition. In a 2004 address, the late Pope St. John Paul II drew a conclusion that harmonizes with sound moral thinking as well as with Christian faith: artificial nutrition and hydration must be provided unless the body cannot absorb them, unless they cause physical harm, or unless they cannot reasonably be expected to prolong life. That standard respects both the dignity of the severely disabled and the natural contours of the dying process. Sometimes patients such as Casey Kasem require strenuous efforts from caretakers; at other times, the willingness of loved ones to say goodbye.

If the physicians at St. Anthony’s Hospital determined that continued feeding had become harmful to Kasem’s body or could not reasonably prolong his life and communicated that fact to the judge, then they too are to be thanked for helping bring peace to a tragic situation.

Grattan Brown is an Associate Professor of Theology at Belmont Abbey College

Wednesday, June 25, 2014|Categories: Faculty|Tags: |