By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
(RNS) A small Catholic college has sued the Department of Health and Human Services, saying a new requirement to provide contraceptives contradicts the school's religious beliefs.
Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., said Thursday (Nov. 10) that the mandate, ordered in the health care bill passed last year, is unconstitutional because it violates the school's freedoms of religion and speech.
Hannah Smith, senior legal counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed the suit on behalf of Belmont Abbey, said: "This is much worse than an unfunded mandate; it is a monk-funded mandate."
The suit comes as some religious groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, say that the mandate violates the conscience of organizations that oppose contraception on moral or ethical grounds.
The 26-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the legislation does not treat religious groups neutrally and "runs roughshod" over the college's beliefs, forcing it to either violate them or pay significant penalties.
"Having to pay a fine to the taxing authorities for the privilege of practicing one's religion or controlling one's own speech is un-American, unprecedented, and flagrantly unconstitutional," the suit says.
A spokesperson for HHS could not be reached immediately for comment on Friday.