After a nearly eight-year legal battle, three California churches succeeded in convincing a federal court that their constitutional rights were violated when state officials tried to force them to pay for healthcare insurance that covered elective abortions.
The trouble started back in August of 2014 when the California Department of Managed Health Care (CDMHC) decided California church employee healthcare plans must cover elective abortions. This did not sit well with Foothill Church, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, and Shepherd of the Hills Church. Their attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a religious discrimination lawsuit in 2015 on their behalf accusing the CDMHC of religious discrimination. Their motion explains their reasoning:
“[These Churches] believe the Holy Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God and thus it guides every aspect of Christian life, practice, morals, and doctrine. The Bible teaches—and the Churches believe—that all human life begins at conception, is purposefully created by God, is the only living creature made in His image, and is sacred and worthy of protection from conception to natural death. As a result, the Churches believe abortion is a sin and plainly contrary to their Christian beliefs.”
Thursday, August 25th, the U.S. District Court announced they agreed with ADF’s arguments. The churches had asked to be exempt from covering abortions except “when absolutely necessary to save the life of the mother,” even in “circumstances of rape and incest.” Chief Judge Kimberly Mueller wrote that CDMHC did violate the churches’ 1st Amendment rights to exercise their religion when the exemptions were denied.
Mueller also explained that the CDMHC Director Mary Watanbe’s “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.”
This ruling is a long-awaited victory for the three churches. Jeremiah Galus who is the ADF attorney who represented the churches discussed the win. “For years, California has unconstitutionally targeted faith-based organizations, so we’re pleased the court has found this mandate unconstitutional and will allow the churches we represent to operate freely according to their religious beliefs.”
Calvary Chapel Chino Hills (CCCH) Pastor Jack Hibbs announced the exciting victory on his Facebook page writing, “The LORD won our case!” The following day Pastor Jack went live on Facebook praising the good news and sharing that winning the case “opens up a door of freedom and integrity for other churches in California.”
While California officials and political leaders have sought endlessly to protect and expand abortion. Wins such as this are a reminder that when the Church stays faithful, God will bless them.