Catholic World News News Feature
California court tells Church to provide birth control March 01, 2004
The California Supreme Court has ruled that the Catholic Church's charitable institutions in the state must provide contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans for employees despite the Church's constant moral teaching that contraception is sinful.
The court ruled 6-1 that Catholic Charities is no different than other businesses in the state and must abide by a state law that requires employer-provide health care plans to include contraceptive coverage. While the law exempts "religious employers," such as churches, the court concluded that because Catholic Charities provides "secular" services such as counseling, low-income housing, and immigration services to the public without directly preaching about Catholic values, then the law applies.
The court said that Catholic Charities employs workers and serves people of various religions, diluting the need to account for the Church's teachings.
The ruling could also affect thousands of employees at Catholic hospitals and other charitable organizations throughout California. Twenty states have similar laws requiring such birth control coverage.
Justice Janice Rogers Brown dissented, writing that the Legislature's definition of a "religious employer" is too limiting if excludes faith-based nonprofit groups like Catholic Charities. "Here we are dealing with an intentional, purposeful intrusion into a religious organization's expression of it religious tenets and sense of mission," Brown wrote. "The government is not accidentally or incidentally interfering with religious practice; it is doing so willfully by making a judgment about what is or is not a religion." Brown was nominated last October by President Bush to a vacancy on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, but her nomination has been filibustered by Democrats who don't want a conservative black judge on the federal bench.