Contraceptive Conundrum
Supreme Court avoids Catholic religious freedom case

.- The United States Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider the appeal of Catholic and other religious groups seeking an exemption from a New York law mandating the funding of contraceptives in employee insurance programs, the International Herald-Tribune reports.

Catholic Charities in Albany and eight other Catholic and Baptist organizations sought to overturn the New York State’s Court of Appeals decision to deny their exemption from the law.

Sponsors of the New York law, passed in 2002, justified it as a democratic measure.  Typical employee health plans excluded contraceptive coverage, the cost of which was unequally borne by women.

The law included an exemption for “religious employers,” but defined such employers as a non-profit organization that advances religious values, primarily employs people of its religious faith, and primarily serves those who share that faith.  Since Catholic Charities serves a “secular purpose,” does not proselytize, and discriminates neither in its employment practices nor in its choice of clients, it did not qualify for this exemption. 

Catholic Charities and its co-plaintiffs did not argue the specifics of these qualifications.  Instead they claimed that the state was unjustly attempting to “coerce a church entity to finance private conduct that the church teaches is morally wrong,” thus violating First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion.

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