A federal court struck down a California mandate Aug. 25 that required churches to pay for elective abortions through their health insurance plans despite their Biblical convictions.
U.S. District Chief Judge Kimberly Mueller concluded that the mandate “imposed a substantial burden on the [churches’] exercise of religion.
“The … denial of the churches’ request for exceptions to accommodate their religious beliefs, based solely on the fact that those requests did not originate with a plan, was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest,” Mueller added.
In August 2014, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) sent letters to seven private health insurers, directing them to remove any limitations on, or exclusions of, abortion care services from the health care coverage they offered to various employers. There was no mention of exemptions for religious employers.
DMHC argued that abortion is a “basic health care service” so insurers didn’t even have to mention anything about abortion services in their plans.
After learning about the letters, three California churches—Foothill Church, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills and Shepherd of the Hills Church—sued DMHC.
“Because [we] believe abortion is a sin, [we] cannot pay for or facilitate coverage for elective abortion in [our] employee health care plans,” the churches said in their complaint.
Through the course of the case, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the religious liberty law firm representing the churches, discovered that the impetus behind the mandate was Planned Parenthood.
Emails sent among Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, California Health and Human Services Agency and DMHC revealed that Planned Parenthood demanded that DMHC “fix” the already approved plans that didn’t include abortion coverage and no longer offer plans that exclude coverage for abortion. The abortion giant also threatened to promote its own “legislative solution” if DMHC didn’t meet these demands.
“The state has no business implementing Planned Parenthood’s scheme to force religious groups to act contrary to their own pro-life beliefs under the threat of massive penalties if they don’t comply,” said Erik Stanley, ADF senior counsel and director of the Center for Christian Ministries.
In a video message, Jack Hibbs, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, explained that California’s abortion mandate not only had legal implications, but moral implications as well.
“[Calvary Chapel] could never take worship dollars from God’s people and pay for elective abortions [through] our insurance plan,” he said.
In announcing the Aug. 25 victory, Hibbs pointed out that the ruling extended beyond Calvary Church to all Bible-believing churches throughout the state.
“This opens up a door of freedom and integrity for other churches in California.”