In February, we reported on the case of a Catholic charity – which has provided aid to the disabled, the elderly, and the poor for more than one hundred years – deemed not religious enough to qualify for that state’s religious liberty exemptions. An appellate court ruled that the Catholic Charities Bureau of Wisconsin must contribute to the state’s unemployment system, instead of to a church-run system.
We reported at the time: “This ruling is of far greater significance than the immediate issue: it opens a fresh vulnerability for the free practice of religion. If upheld, this ruling would subject religious-based charities to all manner of state agency rules regarding church governance that would amount to government regulation of belief.”
Now religious organizations will have another chance in court to protect the religious nature of their charitable programs. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently granted the charity’s request to hear its case and ordered that it file a brief within 30 days.
In this case, religious doctrine and belief will be inseparable from considerations of the law. The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear that this charity, run by the Diocese of Superior, and that offers in-home health care, housing, childcare services, and other resources, is an expression of the directives of the Gospels. The free exercise of religion necessarily will require justices to consider the core belief of Christianity – as well as those of other religions – that charitable service is most definitely a form of worship.