Albany, N.Y., Sep 7, 2006 / 22:00 pm America/Denver (CNA).Lawyers for Catholic Charities of Albany urged the state Court of Appeals Wednesday to either expand an exemption for state-mandated contraceptive coverage to include all faith-based organizations or to declare the exemption unconstitutional.
Catholic Charities of Albany and other faith-based groups brought the lawsuit against the state Insurance Department. They say the religious exemption that applies to organizations, like seminaries, but does not apply to faith-based organizations that serve the public is unconstitutional.
Albany lawyer Michael Costello asked the highest court in the state to issue an injunction that would release the faith-based groups from compliance.
"You can judiciously craft an appropriate exemption," he reportedly told the seven judges. "You can either expand it or declare the exemption unconstitutional."
Costello observed that the current legislation, which stipulates grounds for the exemption, is the first to establish “a notion of what it means to be a religious employer."
"They've crossed the line here in an unconstitutional way,” Costello said adding that the religious exemption should be expanded to include groups like Catholic Charities.
The New York State Catholic Conference has said the law attempts to destroy the Church's network of social services, hospitals, nursing homes and schools.
Furthermore, the conference maintains that the law is a means of mandating coverage for abortion.
The court is expected to render a decision in about a month.