California can’t force churches to pay for abortions, courts rule


Two federal courts in California ruled last week that churches in the state do not have to cover abortion procedures in their health insurance plans. Both rulings found that a state abortion-coverage mandate violated the churches’ first amendment rights, bringing an end to two lawsuits that have been moving through the court system for years.

Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented Skyline Wesleyan Church, located in the San Diego area, in one federal lawsuit, and represented Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, and The Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch in another.

The lawsuits date back to 2015 and 2016, and challenged a state mandate from the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) stipulating that abortion must be covered in health insurance plans. ADF also filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asserting that the provision violated religious conscience protections. E-mails discovered during legal proceedings revealed DMHC’s abortion-coverage provision came “in response to specific demands from Planned Parenthood.”

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“The government can’t force a church or any other religious employer to violate their faith and conscience by participating in funding abortion,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus. “For years, California officials, in collaboration with Planned Parenthood, have unconstitutionally targeted faith-based organizations. 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.”

“In both cases, the courts ruled that the U.S. Constitution protects the churches’ freedom to operate according to their religious beliefs, which include their belief in the sanctity of unborn lives,” ADF also noted.

In its press release, ADF said that in response to the court rulings, California state officials have agreed to pay $1.4 million toward the plaintiffs’ legal fees. Attorney General Rob Bonta has already drawn up an order for the state to pay $500,000 to each of the churches involved in the lawsuits.

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