Four California churches filed two lawsuits over the state’s unconstitutional mandate that requires churches to provide employees with abortion coverage in their health insurance plans. After an eight-year battle, the courts ruled in favor of religious liberty, allowing the churches to operate according to their religious beliefs and decline to offer abortion coverage. Now, the churches are being awarded $1.4 million.
In the first lawsuit, Foothill Church v. Rouillard (now Watanabe), Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, and The Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch. In the second case, Skyline Wesleyan Church v. California Department of Managed Health Care, ADF attorneys represented Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego.
The lawsuits challenged a California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) policy which misinterpreted the 40-year-old Knox-Keene Act after Planned Parenthood demanded the government agency “fix” the health plans of religious institutions to include coverage for abortion.
This policy violated the U.S. Constitution by barring churches from acting in accordance with their religious beliefs.
Skyline pastor Lisa Amann explained the difficult situation that the state’s policy had put her church in.
“We’re between a rock and a hard place because we are either being forced to support abortion, or we’re being fined for not participating in health care. When it was presented to make this stand, it was an automatic ‘yes,’ just because the Bible is so clear on its stance on abortion. The Bible is so clear about how much God, the Creator, loves His creation. It says in the Bible that we are God’s masterpiece. The Greek word … is ‘poiema’ which means poem. We’re His poems. And God says that His masterpiece[s] are valuable. That’s why life matters. It’s because the Creator gave that value to His creation. We’re essentially defending people who don’t have voices. As Christians, we’re called to be the voices for those who are defenseless.”
No state should force any employer to choose between adhering to their religious convictions or facing serious penalties that could jeopardize the solvency of the business or organization itself. Further, no one should be forced to fund, either through taxes or health insurance coverage, a deeply controversial and morally abhorrent practice such as abortion.
“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.”
Hopefully, this case sets a crucial precedent. Life-affirming churches, organizations, and individuals have every right to refuse to be involved in the murder of innocent preborn children.