Attorneys representing a faith-based pregnancy center, a church, and other religious nonprofits filed a lawsuit late last week in federal court against the state of New York challenging a law that forces them to hire employees who disagree with the fundamental beliefs and mission of the organizations.
SB 660, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday, requires all employers—including churches, religious schools, faith-based pregnancy care centers, and religious nonprofits—to disavow their beliefs about abortion, contraception, and sexual morality by forcing them to hire and employ those who refuse to abide by the organizations’ statements of faith. Alliance Defending Freedom filed the lawsuit on behalf of Rochester pregnancy care center CompassCare, First Bible Baptist Church, and other groups, including the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, an association of pro-life pregnancy centers.
“CompassCare offers comprehensive information and free medical care, practical resources, and hope to women experiencing unplanned pregnancies,” said ADF Legal Counsel Denise Harle. “Every woman deserves the support she needs to make the healthiest choice for everyone involved in her pregnancy. But New York’s new law forces CompassCare to contradict its own beliefs and to employ staff who endorse abortion—a decision that harms women and ends innocent lives. No one would force PETA to hire employees that hunt on the weekends. CompassCare deserves that same courtesy and equal freedom under law.”
The ADF lawsuit notes that SB 660 is the third in a trio of abortion-protective and abortion-advancing laws passed by the New York State Legislature this year and seeks to remedy a non-existent problem. The bill’s proponents failed to cite any documented instances of employment discrimination based on “reproductive health decisions” in New York or anywhere else.
“No government has the right to tell pro-life or religious organizations they must hire someone who doesn’t agree with their core mission,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ken Connelly. “New York is directly demeaning religious pro-life pregnancy centers and other faith-based organizations—like religious schools, Catholic hospitals, and even churches—by ordering them to violate their beliefs in key personnel and leadership decisions. The state is requiring our clients to contradict their convictions and undercut their freedom of association—requirements that are flatly unconstitutional.”
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“Gov. Cuomo has characterized pro-lifers as extreme and stated that they have no place in New York. He claims his comments were misconstrued, but his actions this year show that he actually meant what he said,” Connelly explained. “In January, he signed into law a bill that would effectively permit abortions up until a child is born. In April, he signed a bill requiring no-cost coverage of contraceptives, including abortifacient drugs. And now he has signed into law SB 660, a bill championed for years by Planned Parenthood, which requires religious and pro-life employers to hire and employ those who reject their belief that children deserve the chance to be born. Gov. Cuomo’s message to pro-life New Yorkers is loud and clear: The abortion agenda of Planned Parenthood trumps the lives of the unborn, and anyone who disagrees will be forced to bow to the state’s orthodoxy by force of law.”
The lawsuit, CompassCare v. Cuomo, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. James P. Trainor, one of more than 3,400 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case.