New Jersey Bill Forces Catholic Insurance Companies to Pay for Contraception
by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
June 26, 2004
Trenton, NJ (LifeNews.com) — The New Jersey Legislature is attempting to pass legislation requiring Catholic insurance companies to pay for contraception, despite Catholic teaching opposing the practice.
Such legislation could set a precedent for laws forcing Catholic and other religious institutions to subsidize other activities considered immoral by the Catholic Church, including abortions.
Last week the Senate passed S556, which "requires insurers that provide outpatient prescription drug benefits and State Health Benefits Program to cover costs of prescription female contraceptives."
The bill also includes an amendment by the ACLU that would force Catholic hospitals and Catholic Charities to provide insurance covering contraceptives because their patients and staff include non-Catholics, effectively exempting those institutions from a conscience clause that would allow them to "opt out" of providing services to which they morally object.
The legislation has been sponsored by Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), Sen. Ellen Karcher (D-Monmouth), Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington), Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Edison), Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Ewing), and Sen. Robert Singer (R-Jackson).
William F. Bolan Jr., executive Director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, said the bill "represents an unprecedented assault on the religious freedom rights of churches in general and the Catholic Church in particular."
"If this kind of amendment becomes law, it is difficult to imagine any restraint upon the state’s ability to require religious institutions to violate the principal tenets of their faith," Bolan added.
Earlier this month Catholic Charities in California announced it will take its challenge of a similar California law to the Supreme Court, having lost an appeal in March.
The California Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that "religious employers” such as churches are exempt from providing coverage for birth control. But, it said that Catholic Charities is not exempt since it is not a church — but rather a related organization — and because it offers secular services such as counseling low-income housing, and immigration services.
Dennis Poust, communications director for the New York Catholic Conference, believes the Catholic Church stands in the way of a sweeping agenda of social change, from abortion to cloning and embryonic stem cell research.
"There are watch groups out there and any time a Catholic hospital becomes affiliated with a non-Catholic hospital, they monitor like crazy," Poust said, noting the focus on limiting Catholic hospitals. "There’s a strong attempt to limit the Church’s ability to serve only those who share its own beliefs."