Ninth Circuit Rules in Favor of California Church Forced to Pay for Abortions

by christiannewsjournal
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How extreme is the state of California on abortion?

You probably already know that the state tried to force pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions. But you might not know that some state officials wanted to force churches to pay for abortions.

That’s not a typo. A California agency actually added elective abortion coverage to the employee healthcare plans of churches throughout the state—without even telling them. Thankfully, Skyline Church took a stand against the state. And on May 13, it heard some good news from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 

Let’s take a look at the details of this case.

Who: Skyline Wesleyan Church

Everything Skyline Wesleyan Church does is rooted in biblical principles.

“As a Christian, I cannot knowingly pay for or facilitate access to elective abortions in any way, including through healthcare insurance,” says Pastor Lisa Amann. “Why? Because the Bible, the foundation for my beliefs, is crystal clear when it comes to abortion.”

Lisa has been attending Skyline almost her entire life. Now, she works there as a pastor.

Since its first gathering in the summer of 1954, pastors and leaders of Skyline Wesleyan Church have called upon their congregations to live out their faith and practice what they preach. Church leaders like Lisa do this by advocating for life at every stage as well as taking good care of their employees by providing them with the very best healthcare policies available.

The California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) told the church that it must choose one or the other.

What: Skyline Wesleyan Church v. California Department of Managed Health Care

In August 2014, the California DMHC mandated that the healthcare plans of churches and religious organizations cover elective abortions. This mandate added elective abortions to Skyline Wesleyan Church’s healthcare plan—without the church even knowing about it.

The DMHC sent a letter to insurance providers in the state telling them that it would be illegal for themto allow churches and religious organizations to exclude elective abortion coverage in their healthcare plans. In its letter, the DMHC remarkably claimed that all abortions are “basic health care services” and “medically necessary” and therefore must be covered.

These unelected officials made this decision without passing a regulation or allowing for public input. And what’s worse is that they did so after being influenced by pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.

The state even had evidence that its mandate would only affect religious organizations. This is a new low that clearly violates the Free Exercise Clause by targeting churches and religious organizations.

Skyline Church, along with millions of Christians across the country, holds the biblical belief that every human life—born or unborn—has worth and dignity. Opposing abortions in their health plans is non-negotiable. They had no choice but to file a complaint against the DMHC.

When: August 2014—Present

After learning about the DMHC’s August 2014 mandate and unilateral revision of their employee healthcare plan, Skyline Church filed a lawsuit challenging the DMHC’s abortion-coverage requirement.

But a federal district court denied Skyline Church’s request for relief. The church asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reverse that decision. And on November 4, 2019, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argued the case in front of the Ninth Circuit.

On May 13, 2020, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Skyline Church! The Ninth Circuit held that the church properly challenged the state’s abortion-coverage mandate and that the lower district court was wrong to dismiss the church’s claims. The Ninth Circuit recognized that Skyline Church suffered an injury when the state mandated that its healthcare plan cover elective abortions. The case will now be remanded to the lower court for further proceedings consistent with the Ninth Circuit’s ruling.

Where: La Mesa, California

Located in La Mesa, Skyline Church has been a fixture of the San Diego area for over 60 years.

Why: No one should be forced to pay for abortion against their beliefs.

The state of California previously demanded that Skyline Church either fund abortions through its healthcare plan or risk paying steep fines under the Affordable Care Act by declining to provide health coverage for its employees.

No church or individual should be forced to participate in funding abortion. Every American should be free to live and work according to their faith without fear of unjust punishment by the government.

Churches should be free to operate according to their faith without being threatened by the government.

-Alliance Defending Freedom

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