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Statement of CFFC President Frances Kissling on New York Court of Appeals Decision to Preserve Contraceptive Equity, Hold Religious Employers Accountable to the Law

October 20, 2006

Washington, DC–Catholics for a Free Choice welcomes the New York Court of Appeals unanimous decision in Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany v. Gregory V. Serio upholding the Women’s Health and Wellness Act and ensuring contraceptive equity for all New Yorkers.

Regardless of their religious affiliation, nonprofit organizations should be held to the same standards as other employers. Catholic Charities and other similar groups are overwhelmingly financed by public funds; their employees are not predominantly Catholic; and the people that they aim to serve come from various religious traditions and faith backgrounds.  Their purpose is to provide social services, not to proselytize their employees and those in need of aid.

Under these circumstances, it is fitting that Catholic Charities and similar faith-affiliated groups comply with the need—formally mandated in the Women’s Health and Wellness Act—of New Yorkers to have fair and equitable healthcare coverage and contraceptive equity for all of its residents.  The Court of Appeals’ decision makes it clear: where the public health is concerned, groups are going to need to meet a high standard to claim a religious exemption from the law.