Belmont Abbey College celebrates victory in contraception mandate suit
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GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Belmont Abbey College is celebrating a victory in its case against the Obama Administration over the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
A U.S. District Court panel of judges sided with the Gaston County school, ordering administration officials to rewrite the law to exempt religious institutions from offering free contraceptives to employees.
The ruling potentially impacts dozens of religious colleges in North Carolina.
William Thierfelder, the president of Belmont Abbey College, said the ruling is an answer to many prayers. He compared the small liberal arts school taking on the federal government to the famous biblical tale of David and Goliath.
"Who would have ever thought that Belmont Abbey College would be in the middle of this entire thing. I mean of all the places you would think, all the prestigious names you could pick out of all kinds of colleges and universities. It feels very much like David except I'm still looking for the slingshot,” said Thierfelder.
It has been a long fight for Belmont Abbey College against the mandate that all employers offer free contraception coverage in their health care plans. However this week’s ruling from the appellate court brought relief.
“There’s still more steps to go in this process, but it was very heartening that we were finally heard and the truth prevailed. So we’re just happy,” said Thierfelder.
Belmont Abbey’s case is one of 41 lawsuits nationwide challenging the mandate. The college says it is simply a matter of religious freedom, protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
"And that's why so many people of different faiths around the country are rallying behind us. Even those that say contraception is okay in their beliefs, they're still there defending our religious liberty as well,” said Thierfelder.
The court ordered the Obama Administration to report back in 60 days on its progress revising the mandate. The three-page appellate court ruling also said the government has until March 31 to rewrite the law.
In the meantime, Belmont Abbey College will wait to hear the new rule.