California state officials have agreed to pay more than $1 million in legal fees to four churches that sued the state over a mandate that required churches to cover abortions through their health insurance plans.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a nonprofit law firm, successfully resolved two separate lawsuits brought on by Foothill Church, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, The Shepherd of the Hills Church, and Skyline Wesleyan Church.
In 2015, Foothill Church submitted a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services against the California Department of Managed Health Care over a mandate it issued in response to specific demands from Planned Parenthood.
According to the ADF, those demands asked agency officials to implement a “fix” requiring the health plans of religious organizations to include abortion coverage, despite the state’s recognition that religious groups shouldn’t be subject to such requirements.
The law firm represented Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, and The Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch.
The ADF also filed a second lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of Skyline Weslyn Church because the mandate violated their religious conscience.
Two federal courts in California ruled that the First Amendment protects the churches’ right to decline elective abortion coverage in their health insurance plans and that the state’s mandate was unconstitutional, the group explained.
“The government can’t force a church or any other religious employer to violate their faith and conscience by participating in funding abortion,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus.
He continued, “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.”
The state of California has been ordered to pay $1,400,000 toward the churches’ attorneys’ fees.