Case Name: Skyline Wesleyan Church v. Cal. Dep’t of Managed Health Care, et al., D.C. No. 3:16-cv-00501-CAB-DHB

Court: U.S. District Court for the Southern Dist. of Cal.; Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Role: Co-counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom

Status: On remand from appeal

Skyline Church is a Christian church based in La Mesa, California. Skyline adheres to The Discipline of Wesleyan Church, which forbids abortion except in those “rare pregnancies where there are grave medical conditions threatening the life of the mother.” Consistent with this doctrine, the church believes and teaches that elective abortion violates the Bible’s command against the intentional destruction of innocent human life.

Led by internationally renowned past, Jim Garlow, Skyline Church has a strong and vibrant ministry staff. As a condition of employment, the church’s employees must be members of the congregation and be willing to agree with and abide by The Discipline, including its precepts about abortion. Because the church sincerely believes it has a religious obligation to care for the physical, mental, and emotional health of its employees, it offers them a generous health insurance plan.

The church previously could—and did—purchase an employee health care plan that excluded elective abortion coverage consistent with its religious beliefs. But that all changed in August 2014. Pressured by pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood, the California Department of Managed Health Care (“DMHC”) summarily announced to insurers that it was now illegal for them to exclude or limit abortion coverage in their health care plans.

The DMHC’s abortion-coverage mandate puts the church to an impossible choice: It either must violate its religious beliefs about elective abortions or face crippling fines. When the DMHC imposes such a penalty on the church’s free exercise of religion, its it violates the First Amendment.

Trial is set for February 2018.