California cannot require churches which believe in the sanctity of life to provide health insurance cover for abortions, a federal court has ruled.
District Chief Judge Kimberly Mueller declared that it was unconstitutional for the State to deny churches an exemption on the grounds of religious belief from ‘elective abortion coverage’ for their employees.
The case was brought by three churches which all believe that human life “is sacred and worthy of protection from conception”.
‘Abortion is a sin’
In April, the churches asked the court to rule against California’s abortion insurance mandate as a violation of First Amendment rights to religious freedom.
Papers filed with the District Court stated: “the Churches believe abortion is a sin and plainly contrary to their Christian beliefs”.
Consequently, the document continued, “they cannot pay for or facilitate coverage for elective abortion in their employee healthcare plans”.
Judge Mueller found no compelling reason for California’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) to refuse religious exemptions for employers regarding abortion cover.
ADF attorneys, who represented the churches, uncovered a series of emails in which abortion giant Planned Parenthood put pressure on the DMHC to deny the churches an exemption.
One email urged the DMHC not to “approve any further plans that exclude coverage for abortion or other reproductive health care service.
“This includes a clarification that there is no such thing as an elective or voluntary abortion exclusion.”
Welcoming the court’s decision, ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus said: “The government can’t force a church or any other religious employer to violate their faith and conscience by participating in funding abortion.”
In 2014, California notified health insurance companies that policy cover for abortion, classified by the State as a “basic health service”, should be mandatory for all employers, including churches.
The mandate was brought forward despite the Hobby Lobby case, in which the US Supreme Court backed a Christian-run business that wanted to provide health insurance policies in keeping with its pro-life beliefs.