A Planned Parenthood campaign to force religious institutions in California to pay for abortions prompted a state agency to change the way it interprets its rules, and now the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is being asked to reject the constitutional violations that resulted.
“For more than four years now, Skyline Church has been forced to pay for and participate in what its religious beliefs sincerely teach is sin,” explains an appeal brief filed with the higher court. “It need not wait any longer to vindicate the past and ongoing violations of its constitutional rights.
“Because the church’s claims are ripe, redressable, and meritorious, it respectfully asks this court to reverse the district court’s judgment and enter summary judgment in favor of the church on its federal free-exercise claim.”
The new rule interpretation by California Department of Managed Health Care was enacted in 2014 when the state required that all employers include abortion in their insurance policies.
Previously, religious employers had been exempted from the abortion mandate.
The nationwide fight over Obamacare and its mandates for abortion coverage had been raging for some time already by 2014, including Obama’s efforts to force an organization of Roman Catholic nuns to fund abortions for employees.
The case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled the government could not force the nuns to take actions that violated their faith.
However, the state of California re-interpreted a state law regarding insurance to require abortion coverage.
“Churches should be free to follow their deepest convictions without unlawful, unjust government mandates,” said Jeremiah Galus, a legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom. “The Department of Managed Health Care is misguided in its attempts to force a church to pay for elective abortions.
“The agency has unconstitutionally targeted religious organizations, repeatedly collaborated with pro-abortion advocates, and failed to follow the appropriate administrative procedures to institute this mandate on a limited number of Californians.”
Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa believes it has a religious obligation to care for its employees, and, because of that belief, offers them a general health insurance plan. But the church teaches abortion is incompatible with the Bible.
The church bought employee health care plans that excluded elective abortion, consistent with its beliefs, prior to the change.
On Aug. 22, 2014, however, the state “summarily announced to insurers that it was now illegal for them to exclude or limit abortion coverage in their health care plans.”
It also informed the insurers they didn’t need to inform the religious employers that abortion was included in the plans.
The resulting lawsuit by the church was dismissed at the trial level because of the judge’s claims that the controversy was not ripe for a ruling.
“Government is supposed to be freedom’s greatest protector, not its greatest threat,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “Sadly, California’s Department of Managed Health Care has repeatedly refused to interpret and apply state law in a manner that protects freedom of conscience. Instead, the department has used underground regulation to compel churches to pay for abortion. That’s why we are asking the 9th Circuit to reverse the district court’s decision.”
The church pointed out the Knox-Keene state law had not bee cited as support for mandating abortion coverage for 40 years.
“Then, in February 2014, Planned Parenthood sent the DMHC a legal analysis claiming that coverage was required.”
The abortion industry giant threatened the state with new legislative action “but said it would forgo that effort in exchange for an administrative solution, provided that the DMHC agreed to ‘not approve any further plans that exclude coverage for abortion.'”
It also demanded the state admit “there is no such thing as an elective or voluntary abortion exclusion.”
The abortionists told the state they had reviewed federal law on conscience protections and religious exclusions and said they were no “barrier” for California to do what the abortionists demanded.
The result was the state agency told insurers that because of its new interpretation, exemptions to abortion coverage requirements were no longer allowed.