Pro-life group: Bishops should oppose decision forcing Catholic Charities to provide contraception

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The American Life League (ALL) issued on Monday an urgent statement calling on bishops to oppose yesterday’s California Supreme Court decision that would force Catholic Charities to provide contraception to its employees.

In a 6-1 decision, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that a Roman Catholic charity must offer birth-control coverage to its employees even though the Church considers contraception a sin.

“Today's ruling is an outrageous affront to all people of faith and a clear violation of the free exercise of religion,” the ALL statement says.

“It seems that the state of California is intent on convincing the world that up is down, that wrong is right. It seeks to recognize rights where they don't exist, while usurping the constitutional right of Catholic Californians to the free exercise of religion,” it adds.

The majority of justices argued that Catholic Charities is no different from other businesses in California, where “religious employers” such as churches are exempt from the requirement.

But Justice Janice Roger Brown –the lone dissenter- wrote that “the government is not accidentally or incidentally interfering with religious practice; it is doing so willfully by making a judgment about what is or is not a religion.”

The California Catholic Conference, which represents the Church's policy position in the state, said it was disappointed with the ruling and feared that it could open the door to mandated insurance coverage of abortion.

“It shows no respect to our religious organizations,” said spokeswoman Carol Hogan.

According to ALL, “the state's Catholic bishops have a moral responsibility to courageously speak out against this ruling. A tepid or lackluster response will only serve to further erode the rights of the Catholic Church and all religious institutions in the state. We call on all the Catholic bishops in California to stand firm against this unjust and immoral ruling.”

ALL says also that there are many ways the bishops can oppose the law which this ruling upholds. “They could simply ignore it as an act of civil disobedience; they could counter this act by withholding the countless services they offer to state residents or they could simply stop offering any prescription medical benefit to their employees.”

The pro-life organization also says that the net effect of the Supreme Court's decision “is to exact a punishment on all Californians,” since  “through its hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, AIDS ministries and countless other outreaches, the Catholic Church has provided important services to millions of Californians. It has also strengthened the state's economy by providing a stable work environment for countless residents.”

“Until the state Supreme Court realizes that it has no right to force its morality of secular humanism onto the Catholic Church, we hope the bishops will speak and act in a united voice that proclaims the Gospel of Life and defends the Body of Christ,” the ALL statement concludes.

Catholic Charities has 183 full-time employees and had a $76 million budget in California in 2002.

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