US Supreme Court Refuses Appeal of Catholic Charities on Employee Contraceptive Coverage

Thu Oct 7, 2004 - 12:15 pm EST

WASHINGTON, October 7, 2004 ( - In a decision handed down Monday, October 4th, the US Supreme Court is allowing to stand a March ruling by the California Supreme Court that Catholic Charities of Sacramento does not qualify as a religious organization according to the legal definition and must include prescription contraceptives in its employee health insurance. Catholic Charities is the official charitable arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of California.  When the Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act (WCEA), was passed in 2000, it was over the objections of the Catholic bishops’ conference of California who said the definition of ‘religious employer’ was so narrow that Catholic hospitals and universities would not be included in its exemption clause. To qualify for the exemption, Catholic Charities must exist for the purpose of the “inculcation of religious values,” it must primarily employ Catholics who share the religious tenets of the organization and it must primarily serve Catholics and be a non-profit organization.

The law was praised by a who’s who list of dissident Catholic and anti-Catholic abortion advocate groups including, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, California Catholics for a Free Choice, Dignity/USA, and the Women’s Ordination Conference. Kathy Kneer of Planned Parenthood admitted June 30, 1999, in public hearings that the purpose of the bill was to force religious organizations to provide contraceptive coverage in contravention of their religious precepts.  The Supreme Court decision said that Catholic Charities “does not meet any of the definition’s four criteria.” In recent decades, many Catholic charities have rejected any specifically religious purpose in their mission. Catholics have for many years complained that charitable organizations calling themselves Catholic have effectively abandoned their religious character and adopted instead a distinctly secular leftist agenda.  This time the Catholic abandonment of a specifically religious mission has backfired on Catholic Charities. The Court remarked their own declarations “[raise] the question whether Catholic Charities’ beliefs about the requirements of ‘justice and charity’ are necessarily equivalent to religious beliefs.”

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