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.