Appeals court says "health coverage" beats free exercise of religion
A New York law passed in 2002 requires employers' insurance plans to cover prescription contraceptives. "Religious employers" are exemptbut it's the law's definition of a religious employer that's the trouble. The only groups that qualify under the "Women's Health and Wellness Act" are those where "(1) the inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the entity; (2) the entity primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the entity; (3) the entity serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the entity."
In other words, if you're a church, you're fine. If you're a parachurch ministry, you almost certainly don't qualify. It's not terribly surprising, then, that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany (qualifies), which runs Catholic Charities (doesn't qualify), fought the law and sued over it when it was implemented. Perhaps more surprising is that the Catholics were joined by Baptist churches that don't oppose artificial contraception. They're concerned that the law lays the groundwork for requiring religious organizations to pay for abortion.
Yesterday, a New York appeals court ruled 3-2 in favor of the law, and against the religious organizations. The law indeed burdens the churches' right to the free exercise of religion, the court said, but giving them an exemption "may ultimately cause a greater number of women employed by nonexempt religious organizations to be without adequate health coverage."
The Christian groups had argued that funding artificial contraception would also create the impression that they supported such contraception. The court told them, in essence, that they should just preach louder to counter ...1