Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v. Superior Court, 32 Cal. 4th 527 (2004)

Catholic Charities challenged the Women’s Contraception Equity Act (WCEA) under the establishment and free exercise clauses of the United States and California Constitutions. Among other things, the WCEA requires that certain health and disability insurance contracts must cover prescription contraceptives. Although Catholic Charities offered health insurance, including prescription drug benefits to its 183 full-time employees, it did not offer insurance for prescription contraceptives in light of the Roman Catholic Church’s religious teachings on the subject. Although the WCEA has an exemption for a “religious employer,” Catholic Charities did not qualify for the exemption because its corporate purpose is “not the direct inculcation of religious values” as required by the statute. The California Supreme Court held that the statute as applied to Catholic Charities violated neither the state nor federal constitution. Cf. Bodett v. CoxCom, Inc., 366 F.3d 736 (9th Cir. 2004) (evangelical Christian employee’s claim for religious discrimination was properly dismissed since she had been terminated for harassing an openly gay subordinate about the employee’s sexual orientation).