By Gudrun Schultz

  ALBANY, New York, November 30, 2006 ( – Christian organizations in New York State are challenging a state appeals court ruling that would force them to provide contraceptive prescription coverage for their employees, according to a report by Catholic News Service.

  A decision by the New York Court of Appeals Oct. 19 upheld a state mandate that would require contraception coverage to be included in all prescription coverage offered by businesses or organizations to their employees, including religious groups that may have moral objections to the use of contraception.

  The state mandate was enacted in 2002 as the “Women’s Health and Wellness Act.” In deciding to pass the measure, the state legislature was guided by advice from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which supported contraception use as a means to lower abortion and unplanned pregnancy rates.

  Eight Catholic and two Protestant groups have asked the New York Court of Appeals to rehear the case in a motion filed Nov. 20, saying the court’s decision was in error on several counts.

  The groups include Catholic Charities of the Dioceses of Albany and Ogdensburg, Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer, Our Lady of Consolation Geriatric Care Center, the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, Bishop Ludden High School, Delta Development of Western New York, the Temple Baptist Church and the First Bible Baptist Church.

  In their original appeal the groups argued that the statute’s exemption for “religious employers” was too narrow, since it restricted the exemption only to those organizations that were non-profit, faith-promoting, serving a specific faith community and employing primarily members of that community.

  In the court’s October decision, which found against the religious groups, the court agreed with supporters that expanding the statute’s exemption for “religious employers” would deny “tens of thousands of women employed by church-affiliated organizations of contraceptive coverage.”

  Among the arguments put forth by the Christian groups in November’s motion was the likelihood that Christian organizations would be forced to respond to the state requirements by withdrawing all prescription benefits for their employees.

“Mandating contraceptive coverage by church entities like plaintiffs if and only if those entities choose to provide their employees with prescription drug coverage at all actually undermines the objective of the law, while exempting such entities would without question advance that objective,” the brief stated.

  The court, however, suggested that possibility as a solution to the dilemma faced by the Christian organizations, in the October ruling.

”[The groups] are not required by law to purchase prescription drug coverage at all…it is surely not impossible, though it may be expensive or difficult, to compensate employees adequately without including prescription drugs in their group health care policies,” the ruling stated.

  Read October ruling by New York Court of Appeals: