California officials are preparing to pay out $1.4 million to four churches after attempting to force them to provide abortion health care coverage for their employees, according to a press release.
Skyline Wesleyan Church, located in the San Diego area, Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, and The Shepherd of the Hills Church filed two separate lawsuits with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in 2015 and 2016 after the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) sent emails to insurance providers in the state, mandating that their coverage include abortion services. Federal courts ruled in both cases that the state’s mandate violated the First Amendment and ADF announced Friday that the DMHC had agreed to pay $1.4 million in attorney’s fees, according to an ADF press release.
“Resolving lawsuits brought by four churches, two federal courts in California have ruled that the First Amendment protects the churches’ right to decline elective abortion coverage in their health insurance plans,” the press release read. “Given the courts’ rulings in these multi-year lawsuits, state officials have agreed to pay $1,400,000 toward the churches’ attorneys’ fees.
The ADF added: “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.”
In 2014, ADF discovered a series of emails that showed Planned Parenthood urging the DMHC to ensure that abortion services were covered by health insurers in California, resulting in the department issuing an abortion coverage mandate. After filing the lawsuits, a state district court and trial court originally claimed they did not have the jurisdiction to review the churches’ cases, before being overturned by federal courts in 2020 and 2021.
In August 2022, a federal district court ruled against DMHC, arguing that the attempt to force Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, and The Shepherd of the Hills Church to provide abortion services violated the Free Exercise Clause in the Constitution.
Following that decision, DMHC officials agreed that the mandate had also likely violated Skyline Wesleyan Church’s First Amendment rights, and “agreed to a stipulated court order.”
“The government can’t force a church or any other religious employer to violate their faith and conscience by participating in funding abortion,” ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus said in the press release. “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.”
DMHC did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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