A Californian church cannot be forced to pay for abortions for its employees, an appeals court has ruled.
In 2014, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) ordered Skyline Wesleyan Church’s insurers to rewrite the church’s health insurance plan to cover elective abortions, despite it being exempt due to its religious nature.
A lower court dismissed the church’s case, but an appeals court has now overturned that ruling, stating that it cannot be forced to violate its religious beliefs.
Religious beliefs violated
The DMHC claimed that the church was breaching state law by not covering elective abortions for its employees, and advised the church’s insurers that it could make the change without making it clear in the plan’s documents.
The rewritten plan forced Skyline Wesleyan Church to cover abortions where the life of the mother was not at risk.
But the appeals court recognised that the church “suffered an injury” as the “new coverage violated its religious beliefs. There is nothing hypothetical about the situation.”
US religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which brought the case, welcomed the ruling.
ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus said: “Churches should be free to follow their beliefs without unlawful, unjust government mandates”.
He added that the court “rightly recognized the harm that the state has inflicted on Skyline Church in subjecting it to this unprecedented mandate”.
Sanctity of life
In 2018, a US Christian college won a five-year legal battle for the right to not provide health insurance which covers abortion-inducing drugs.
The case centred on the Affordable Care Act – known as ‘Obamacare’ – which obliged employers to provide health insurance that includes contraceptives which act to destroy human embryos.
President of Wheaton College, Phillip Ryken, said: “We are grateful to God that the court recognised Wheaton’s religious identity and protected our ability to affirm the sanctity of human life.
“The government should never have tried to force us to provide drugs and services against our faith, and we are pleased by the resolution of our case.”