This story was originally published by the WND News Center
A state court ruling in Wisconsin that Catholic Charities Bureau isn't religious enough to be exempted from a required state unemployment program now is under review by the state Supreme Court.
"Catholic Charities Bureau, our diocese’s social ministry arm, carries on the work of Christ by reflecting gospel values; everything they do advances the mission of the church," explained James Powers, bishop of the Diocese of Superior. "This backbone of our diocesan ministry has, for over a century, served those who have been forgotten, ignored, and pushed to the margins of society."
At issue is a state mandate for organizations to pay into the state's unemployment program, unless they are "religious."
Without the demand that it be part of the state program, the bureau could join the Wisconsin Catholic Church's own unemployment assistance program and save a lot of money, according to Becket Law, which is working on the case.
The trigger for being exempt from the state program is being "religious."
And the lower court decided because the Catholic program helped the disabled, the elderly, and those living in poverty – without soliciting their attendance at church – it wasn't.
ecket explained, "Religious organizations operated for a 'primarily religious purpose' are generally exempt under Wisconsin law from the state’s unemployment program, allowing them to join other unemployment compensation programs. But the lower court held that because serving those in need is not 'inherently' a religious activity, Catholic Charities Bureau did not qualify for this exemption. In fact, the court thought that Catholic Charities Bureau needed to proselytize and preach the faith to those it served for their ministry to be religious, even though the Catholic Church teaches that care for the poor should never be conditioned on acceptance of the church’s doctrine.
The state Supreme Court now has agreed to take up the arguments.
"The lower court ruling would have punished Catholic Charities Bureau for its good deeds," said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. "But saying a charity is religious only if it restricts its good deeds to those of the same faith misunderstands Catholic teaching, ignores Wisconsin law, and conflicts with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We’re glad that the Wisconsin Supreme Court is stepping in to review the lower court’s misguided view that Catholic Charities Bureau can’t participate in a Catholic unemployment assistance program because it’s not coaxing the poor, the elderly, and the marginalized it serves to join the faith."
The Daily Caller News Foundation earlier documented that Becket accused the lower court's decision of being "deeply flawed."
The case asks the state Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court’s ruling to “preserve church-state relations in Wisconsin.” If allowed to remain, the petition argues, it would allow the government to make “intrusive inquiries” into the church affairs of many religious groups and decide whether or not those groups are religious enough.