The 6-1 decision marked the first such ruling by a state's highest court. Some experts said the ruling could affect thousands of workers at Catholic hospitals and other Church-backed institutions in California and prompt other states to fashion similar laws.
The California court determined that Catholic Charities did not qualify for a religious exemption under the state's contraception mandate because the group employs non-Catholic workers, and counsels and helps people regardless of their religious beliefs.
"Faith-based organizations must retain the freedom to follow religious and ethical beliefs in matters regarding issues such as birth control," said Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical Association, reacting today against the California decision.
"The key issue here is not even the important question of the ethics of birth control," noted Stevens, "but the fundamental freedom to follow the dictates of one's conscience and of the teachings of one's religious faith."
"This case presents a picture of the catch-22 that some would use to hamstring faith-based organizations," he said.
"On one hand, they fight laws that would allow faith-based organizations to restrict hiring to those who follow its religious teachings," Stevens said. "Then on the other hand, as soon a faith-based organizations hires others, they say it's no longer a faith-based organization and loses religious and conscience freedoms. The hypocrisy is stunning, but not surprising, given abortion activists' drive to force their political agenda on everyone who disagrees with their views."
Planned Parenthood and other abortion activist groups have pushed for contraception mandates and strenuously fought strong conscience-protection laws.