Catholic Charities of Sacramento Inc. v. Superior Court
32 Cal.4th 527, 85 P.2d 67 (2004)

  • California enacted the Women's Contraception Equity Act (WCEA) to force employers to cover the cost of contraception under their insurance plan.
  • Catholic opposed the bill because they felt contraception was against their religion, and therefore the law was an unconstitutional violation of the 1st Amendment.
  • The Trial Court found WCEA to be constitutional. Catholic appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed. Catholic appealed.
  • The California Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The California Supreme Court found that the law was required to eliminate gender discrimination.
    • The Court noted that WCEA doesn't require employers to cover prescription drugs. It just says that if they do, then they must also cover contraception.
      • WCEA had an exception for 'religious employers' such as the Catholic Church. But Catholic Charities was an independent non-profit corporation, and so didn't fit under that exemption.
        • The Court suggested that Catholic should go back to the Legislature and ask them to amend the Statute if they didn't like it.
    • Catholic unsuccessfully argued that the law interfered with religious autonomy, but the Court found that it wasn't a religious organization, it was just a non-profit corporation.
      • Many of Catholic's employees weren't even catholic.
    • Catholic unsuccessfully argued that WCEA interfered with the free exercise of religion, but the Court found that the law was religiously neutral and didn't discriminate against any one religion in particular.
    • Catholic unsuccessfully argued that WCEA was arbitrary and capricious in their narrow construction of the 'religious employer' exemption, but the Court found that the law had a rational basis.
  • The basic point of this case is that you can't use the 1st Amendment to avoid provisions of legally enacted and otherwise constitutional Statutes.
    • See also Smith v. Fair Employment Housing Commission (12 Cal.4th (1996)), which held that a religious landlord couldn't keep non-married couples from renting rooms, just because they felt it was sinful.
    • "You cannot isolate yourself via the 1st Amendment if you are in the marketplace."