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Ninth Circuit: California Church Suffered Injury Over State’s Mandate to Include Elective Abortions in Employee Insurance Coverage

California requires employers that offer health insurance to employees to include elective abortion coverage in the plans. Naturally, pro-life employers don’t want any part in the killing of unborn babies. Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa is one of those employers.

Skyline filed a lawsuit against the state when it revoked a religious accommodation and required the church to offer elective abortion coverage. After a lower court dismissed the claim, the church appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2018.

The Ninth Circuit issued a ruling in the case this week. The state was wrong, the court contended, to dismiss the church’s claim. From Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the church (emphasis added):

“We hold that Skyline has suffered an injury in fact,” the 9th Circuit wrote in its opinion. “Before the 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 its new coverage violated its religious beliefs. There is nothing hypothetical about the situation.”

Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa believes it has a religious obligation to care for its employees, and, because of that belief, it offers them a generous health insurance plan. Skyline also believes that all life is valuable and deserving of protection and that abortion is incompatible with that belief. The church only employs people who share its beliefs.

The lower court claimed that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the church’s federal free exercise of religion claim. The Ninth Circuit disagreed and sent the case back to the court.

“Accordingly, we remand and leave it to the district court to determine, after resolving whether Skyline’s other claims are justiciable, see supra Part III.C, when it would be appropriate to proceed to the merits of Skyline’s claims for which there is jurisdiction.”

Photo credit: Dave Bledsoe (Creative Commons) – Some rights reserved

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