Last week, two federal district courts in California awarded four churches a combined total of $1.4 million for attorney’s fees and upheld their First Amendment rights to decline elective abortion coverage for their employee health insurance plans.
For the past eight years, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys have represented four churches in two separate lawsuits that challenged the constitutionality of California’s abortion-coverage mandate.
ADF lawyers filed a lawsuit in 2015 on behalf of Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, and The Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch. And a year later, ADF filed a second federal lawsuit on behalf of Skyline Wesleyan Church, in the San Diego area.
In both cases, the courts ruled last week that the U.S. Constitution protects the churches’ freedom to operate according to their religious beliefs, which includes their belief in the sanctity of unborn human life.
“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.”
As revealed in e-mails that ADF attorneys discovered, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) issued its mandate in response to specific demands from Planned Parenthood. Those demands directed agency officials to implement a “fix” requiring the health plans of religious organizations to include coverage for abortion, regardless of moral or conscientious objections and despite state recognition up to that point that religious groups shouldn’t be subject to such requirements.
ADF lawyers contend that the abortion giant threatened further to promote its own legislative “solution” if the administrative agency didn’t act, so DMHC issued its abortion coverage mandate in 2014.
In 2014, ADF and Life Legal Defense Foundation filed formal complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services against DMHC regarding its mandate and its violation of federal conscience protections. Those came on the heels of a complaint filed directly with DMHC, which responded by affirming its decision to force all plans to cover all abortions without any explanation as to how that decision squares with the Constitution and contrasting federal law.
Photo: Courtesy of Skyline Wesleyan Church