Four churches in California have won religious freedom lawsuits in two federal courts against the state’s abortion-coverage mandate.
In rulings on the two lawsuits, the churches’ right to decline covering abortion in their health insurance plan was upheld by the courts on First Amendment grounds.
“The government can’t force a church or any other religious employer to violate their faith and conscience by participating in funding abortion,” said Jeremiah Galus, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the churches. “For years, California officials, in collaboration with Planned Parenthood, have unconstitutionally targeted faith-based organizations.”
The California Department of Managed Health Care issued the mandate at the request of Planned Parenthood, which took issue with religious organizations not covering abortion services in their insurance plans. The coordination was uncovered by ADF attorneys in e-mails from Planned Parenthood.
“Catholic Universities have been purchasing large group employee health plans that exclude certain types of abortions,” Brianna Pittman of Planned Parenthood wrote. “We met with Donna Campbell at HHS yesterday to discuss this and explore whether there is a regulatory/ administrative fix or if legislation is needed.”
Foothill Church, Calvary Chapel of Chino Hills and Shepherd of the Hills Church sued the state in 2015 over the new insurance mandate. Last August, a federal court ruled in the churches’ favor.
In 2016, another lawsuit was filed for Skyline Wesleyan Church, challenging the same mandate. A ruling in favor of Skyline came May 11.
According to ADF, state officials have also agreed to pay $1.4 million to the churches to help cover legal fees.
However, California continues to advocate for abortions with few restrictions, allowing abortions up until the time the baby is viable outside of the womb without extraordinary medical measure. California also now mandates student health centers to carry abortion pills on college campuses.
In the case of these churches and other religious organizations, Galus celebrated the latest ruling as a win:
“This is a significant victory for the churches we represent, the conscience rights of their members, and other religious organizations that shouldn’t be ordered by the government to violate some of their deepest faith convictions.”