From a Feb. 17 press release by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, "a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions":
On Thursday, the Obama administration filed its first legal response to Belmont Abbey College's lawsuit challenging the controversial contraception mandate. This was its first opportunity to explain to the court and the country why the mandate is not illegal and unconstitutional.
So what did the administration say? Not that the mandate is legal; not that the mandate is constitutional. Instead, it asked the court to duck the key issues because the administration has 'indicated that they will propose and finalize changes to the regulations' at some unspecified date in the future.
'Apparently, the administration has decided that the mandate, as written and finalized, is constitutionally indefensible,' said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Belmont Abbey College. 'Its only hope is to ask the court to look the other way based on an empty promise to possibly change the rules in the future.'
Sad to say, it wouldn't be that surprising if the court rules in favor of the administration. Time will tell.
Interestingly, Belmont Abbey College had a run-in with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2009 over the college's refusal to offer abortion, contraception and sterilization coverage in its employee health insurance packages.
From a 2009 LifeSiteNews.com story:
The EEOC stepped in after eight teachers filed a complaint over what they considered a discriminatory health insurance policy, and what Belmont Abbey says is simply faithfulness to basic Church teaching....
After faculty members filed complaints with the EEOC and the North Carolina Department of Insurance, Belmont Abbey says the EEOC told the school in March 2009 that it would close the file on the discrimination charge, as it had not found the school's decision in violation of its statutes. But the agency later reversed itself, and issued a determination letter to the school on August 5 affirming that the ban amounted to gender discrimination, because it pertains only to women.
On a related note, the Society of St. Pius X, "an international priestly society of common life without vows, whose purpose is the priesthood and that which pertains to it" -- which remains at odds with the Vatican over the changes of Vatican II -- has come out against the mandate:
From a Feb. 17 posting on the website of the SSPX:
The Obama Administration's recent mandate that all employers provide insurance coverage that pays for the costs of abortion inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization is a striking example of the new persecution of the Church.
Although the world has, for the moment, laid aside the physical instruments of persecution, the beast of the Coliseum, the scaffold and cauldron of the hanging, drawing and quartering, or the Guillotine, persecution itself has not been laid aside.
Whereas, in the past the persecution focused primarily on the physical level of the pain of sense, today's persecution focuses on the spiritual and moral aspect of Man's nature. Rather than demanding that he offer incense to a false god or face death, today's persecutors demand violation of the Natural and Divine Law or face loss of government funds and their largest weapon, fear of the loss of human respect....
But you can see where the SSPX parts ways with the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Sadly, modern Church leaders have fashioned their own rod of persecution. The premise of the new persecution can be found in the Vatican II document, Dignitatis Humanae. One of the essential flaws of the document is its underlying treatment of religion as a private matter of conscience. DH proclaims a private right to practice whatever religious beliefs one's private conscience might choose as long as in public you leave everyone else alone to practice his own choice. This novelty makes religion and religious belief purely private. It gives credence to the lie that Men can live double lives. They can have private religious beliefs but must be willing to abandon them in their public life....
The aforementioned debate aside, the bottom line remains that many religious groups are united in opposition to the mandate despite their theological differences. And that's a good thing.