By Hilary White

NEW YORK, October 23, 2006 ( – A ruling from a New York Court of Appeals has ordered Catholic institutions in the state to provide contraception coverage for female employees in health insurance plans.

The Catholic Conference of New York had argued against the order as being contrary to religious freedom guaranteed in the Constitution. The Conference is likely to appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court.

“We believe that forcing Catholic institutions to provide contraceptive coverage and to pay for it is a violation of our religious liberty,” said Dennis Poust of the Catholic Conference.

While Catholic health and charitable institutions do not formally hold that contraceptives fall under the category of “health care,” the court ruled that the state has a “substantial interest in fostering equality between the sexes and in providing women with better health care.”

Commenters have said that the ruling is part of a dangerous trend where courts decide for religious organizations how they must conduct their internal affairs.

At the Alliance Defense Fund blog, “Constitutionally Correct,” an attorney for the ADF wrote, “This ruling is further evidence of the threat that secularism poses to Christian organizations.” (see the post here:Â)

The court decided that the legislation requiring birth control coverage did not violate the constitutional rights to religious freedom because the main or only purpose of Catholic Charities was not the spreading of Catholicism.

“The legislation does not interfere with plaintiffs’ right to communicate, or to refrain from communicating, any message they like; nor does it compel them to associate, or prohibit them from associating, with anyone.”

The court noted that the case would have been more difficult to decide had the institutions involved employed more Catholics who objected to contraception on religious grounds.

View the ruling:

Read commentary at Mirror of Justice legal blog: