By Hilary White

  WASHINGTON, DC, October 3, 2007 ( – The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled that it would not hear an appeal to a New York court ruling upholding a state law that forces religious-based social service agencies to subsidize artificial contraceptives as part of employee drug plans.

  Catholic Charities of New York was joined by other religious groups in a suit arguing that New York’s Women’s Health and Wellness Act of 2002 violates their constitutional right freely to practice their religion. Catholic teaching holds that using artificial contraception is a violation of the universal moral law.

  The consortium of religious rights groups had asked the intervention of the Supreme Court saying, “If the state can compel church entities to subsidize contraceptives in violation of their religious beliefs, it can compel them to subsidize abortions as well.”

“And if it can compel church entities to subsidize abortions, it can require hospitals owned by churches to provide them.”

  The law contains an exemption for religious institutions that “mainly serve followers of that religion”. Catholic hospitals, schools, universities, youth organizations, homes for elderly and adoption agencies have long prided themselves on their commitment to service to the entire public regardless of clients’ or patients’ religious affiliation.

  Catholic Charities of New York were joined by other Catholic and Baptist organizations as well as Seventh-Day Adventist and Orthodox Jewish groups. The groups include Catholic Charities of the Dioceses of Albany and Ogdensburg, Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer, a religious order of sisters, 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.

“A church ought to be able to run its affairs and organize relationships with its employees in a way that’s consistent with moral values and teachings,” said Kevin Baine, of Williams and Connolly, the law firm representing the religious organizations.

  The decision by the New York Court of Appeals a year ago suggested entirely dropping drug coverage for employees as a means by which religious service agencies could maintain their religious principles under the law.

  Read related coverage:

Christian Groups Seek Appeals Hearing on New York Forced Contraception Coverage Decision