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Ninth Circuit Panel Rules Church Has Standing to Sue Over Abortion Coverage

‘The Dept. of Managed Health Care shouldn’t be forcing churches to pay for elective abortions’

By Evan Gahr, May 18, 2020 11:05 am

Just like closeted gay men of an earlier era, most religious people in California just want to be left alone.  They don’t seek to force their lifestyle on anybody.

But folks at “progressive” organizations and the highest echelons of government continually bludgeon them with ideological machinations that bespeak a certain degree of fanaticism and besmirches the Constitution.

In 2016, the ACLU was stymied by the courts when it tried to force a Catholic hospital to sterilize a woman who could just as well have had the procedure performed elsewhere.  In 2019, the Supreme Court invalidated a California law that required pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions services.

This week, the California Court of Appeals ruled against an effort by Golden State bureaucrats to force churches to include abortion coverage in employee health insurance plans.

The dispute dates to 2014.

At the behest of Planned Parenthood, the California Department of Managed Health Care told churches that they need to cover abortion for their employees because such services are supposedly “medically necessary” and constitute “basic medical services.”

Really?

If abortion is such a necessity then why is that supporters continually describe it as a mater of “choice?”

Skyline Wesleyan Church, an evangelical house of worship in suburban San Diego, filed a lawsuit challenging the requirement on the grounds that it violated their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.

United States District Court for the Southern District of California Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo denied the claim on the grounds that the Church had not suffered “injury” due to requirement and therefore had no “standing” to sue.

But last week a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Church does have standing to sue and that its claims are ripe for review.

“We hold that Skyline has suffered an injury in fact,” the 9th Circuit panel wrote. “Before the  [California Department of Managed Health Care ] Letters were sent, Skyline had insurance that excluded abortion coverage in a way that was consistent with its religious beliefs. After the Letters were sent, Skyline did not have that coverage, and it has presented evidence that it’s new coverage violated its religious beliefs. There is nothing hypothetical about the situation.”

The judges remanded the case to the lower court to make a ruling on the merits.

“Churches should be free to follow their beliefs without unlawful, unjust government mandates,”  stated Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus, who  represented the Church. “The Department of Managed Health Care shouldn’t be forcing churches 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 implement its abortion-coverage requirement. The 9th Circuit rightly recognized the harm that the state has inflicted on Skyline Church in subjecting it to this unprecedented mandate.”

Rancho Sante Fe trial lawyer  Charles LiMandri,  who also represented the Church, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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