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Foothill Church v. Watanabe

Description:  The California Department of Managed Health Care is forcing churches to pay for elective abortions in their health insurance plans. Its mandate forces all insurance plans to cover all abortions. The state doesn’t force churches to pay for contraceptive coverage but nonetheless requires them to pay for elective abortion coverage.


California Department of Health Care Services building
Thursday, Aug 25, 2022

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A federal district court ruled Thursday that a California mandate that forces churches to pay for elective abortions in their health insurance plans is unconstitutional. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, and The Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch filed a motion in April asking the court to definitively rule in their favor and allow the churches to operate according to their religious beliefs, which uphold the sanctity of unborn lives.

“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. “For years, California has unconstitutionally targeted faith-based organizations, so we’re pleased the court has found this mandate unconstitutional and will allow the churches we represent to operate freely according to their religious beliefs.”

“In sum, the Director has not shown ‘[she] lacks other means of achieving [her] desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion by [plaintiffs],’” the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Sacramento Division, wrote in its opinion in Foothill Church v. Watanabe. “The Director’s denial of the Churches’ request for exceptions to accommodate their religious beliefs, based solely on the fact that those requests did not originate with a plan, was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest.”

As revealed in e-mails that ADF attorneys discovered, the California Department of Managed Health Care issued its mandate in response to specific demands from Planned Parenthood. Those demands asked agency officials to implement a “fix” requiring the health plans of religious organizations to include coverage for abortion, regardless of moral or conscientious objections and despite state recognition up to that point that religious groups shouldn’t be subject to such requirements. The abortion giant threatened to promote its own legislative “solution” if the administrative agency didn’t act, so DMHC issued its mandate in 2014.

  • Pronunciation guide: Galus (GAL’-us)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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ABOUT Jeremiah Galus

Jeremiah Galus serves as senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is a key member of the Center for Christian Ministries. Since joining ADF in 2015, Galus has represented a wide array of religious ministries, schools, and churches, litigating cases at all levels of state and federal court. Prior to joining ADF, Galus worked as an attorney with a large law firm in Washington, D.C., where he focused on complex civil litigation. He also served as a prosecutor for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Arizona. He earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2009 and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in government and political affairs from Millersville University in 2006. Galus also completed the ADF leadership development program to become a Blackstone Fellow in 2007 and is a member of the state bar in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.