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Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v. Superior Court

Supreme Court of California
85 P.3d 67 (2004)


Facts

The California legislature enacted the Women’s Contraception Equity Act (WCEA) to improve access to prescription contraceptives. The WCEA did not require any employer to offer coverage for prescription drugs, but if an employer chose to provide such coverage, that employer was required to cover the costs of prescription contraceptives as well. The WCEA allowed a religious employer to request an exemption from providing prescription contraceptives that were contrary to the employer’s religious beliefs. Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. (CCS) (plaintiff), a non-profit entity that serviced the needs of the poor, provided health insurance, including drug coverage, to its full-time employees, most of whom were not members of the Catholic Church (the Church). However, CCS did not want to offer insurance for prescription contraceptives, which were against the religious beliefs of the Church. Additionally, CCS did not meet the WCEA’s definition of a religious employer and could not qualify for an exemption. CCS filed suit against the State of California, seeking a declaratory judgment that the WCEA was unconstitutional under the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the federal and state constitutions. The superior court denied CCS’s motion for a preliminary injunction. CCS appealed the decision by a petition for writ of mandate, which the court of appeal denied. The California Supreme Court granted review of the court of appeal’s decision.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Werdegar, J.)

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