Guest / Limited Access /

California Supreme Court: "Secular purpose" of Catholic Charities means it must provide birth control despite church objections
A word of warning: Engage in social ministry without discrimination and you may be giving up your religious rights. That's the basic message of yesterday's California Supreme Court ruling, which said that Catholic Charities is not a religious employer and therefore isn't exempt from a state law requiring businesses to pay for employees' contraception. Catholic Charities isn't religious, the court said, because it employs and offers social services to people of all faiths and doesn't directly evangelize.

"This is such a crabbed and restrictive view of religion that it would define the ministry of Jesus Christ as a secular activity," wrote Justice Janice Rogers Brown, the sole dissenter to the 6-1 ruling. "Here we are dealing with an intentional, purposeful intrusion into a religious organization's expression of its religious tenets and sense of mission. 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 religious. This is precisely the sort of behavior that has been condemned in every other context."

Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, writing for the majority (PDF | DOC), said that Catholic Charities is "free to express its disapproval of prescription contraceptives and to encourage its employees not to use them," but must pay contraception costs for those who disagree with the organization's teachings.

"This case does not implicate internal church governance; it implicates the relationship between a nonprofit public benefit corporation and its employees, most of whom do not belong to the Catholic ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Weblog
Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's managing editor for news and online journalism. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
Previous Weblog Columns:
Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueEgypt’s Anglicans Face ‘Existential Threat’ … from Fellow Protestants
Subscriber Access Only
Egypt’s Anglicans Face ‘Existential Threat’ … from Fellow Protestants
Cairo bishop resists efforts to deny his church independence.
Recommended‘The Young Pope’ Takes an Anxious Look at the Danger of Doubt
‘The Young Pope’ Takes an Anxious Look at the Danger of Doubt
HBO's unsettling Vatican satire asks what happens when spiritual leaders shirk their own faith.
TrendingAll 240 Family Christian Stores Are Closing
All 240 Family Christian Stores Are Closing
More than 3,000 employees in 36 states will be laid off in the liquidation of one of the world’s largest Christian retailers.
Editor's PickA Tale of Two Calvary Chapels: Behind the Movement’s Split
A Tale of Two Calvary Chapels: Behind the Movement’s Split
Chuck Smith’s successor says he is expanding founder’s vision. Other leaders say he’s diluting it.
Christianity Today
California Supreme Court Orders Catholic Charities to Pay for Birth ...
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

March 2004

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.