The state of California, in its infinite wisdom, has become the latest secular jurisdiction to decide the First Amendment doesn’t apply within its bounds. This time, the issue is abortion, and the churches of that state have found out that while they don’t have to provide insurance coverage for contraception, they do have to provide it for surgical abortion. The Federalist unveils the insanity:

For the past four years, the Obama administration and its friends on the Left were careful to claim that they still strongly support religious liberty while arguing that Hobby Lobby’s Green family, Conestoga Wood Specialties’ Hahn family, and others like them must lose. Principally, they contended, religious liberty protections could not be applied to Hobby Lobby because (1) It is a for-profit corporation, (2) It isn’t a church (and thus not a true “religious employer,” and (3) It is wrong on the science—Plan B, a copper intrauterine device, et cetera, they claimed, do not cause abortions. They implied, if not claimed outright, that they would surely support religious freedom in another case, but Hobby Lobby was unworthy to claim its protections.

The State of California is now calling their bluff. California’s Department of Managed Health Care has ordered all insurance plans in the state to immediately begin covering elective abortion. Not Plan B. Not contraceptives. Elective surgical dismemberment abortion.

At the insistence of the American Civil Liberties Union, the DMHC concluded that a 40-year-old state law requiring health plans to cover “basic health services” had been misinterpreted all these decades. Every plan in the state was immediately ordered, effective August 22, to cover elective abortion. California had not even applied this test to its own state employee health plans (which covered only “medically necessary” abortions). But this novel reading was nevertheless quietly imposed on every plan in the state by fiat.

Several other California churches have received similar notices from their insurers, and others will follow. While California (like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS) exempts churches from its contraceptive mandate, there is no exception to this bureaucratic abortion mandate. This leaves California churches in the illogical and impossible position of being free to exclude contraceptives from their health plan for reasons of religious conscience but required to provide their employees with abortion coverage.

This California mandate is in blatant violation of federal law that specifically prohibits California from discriminating against health care plans on the basis that they do not cover abortion. Alliance Defending Freedom and Life Legal Defense Foundation have filed administrative complaints with the HHS Office of Civil Rights (which oversees this federal law) on behalf of individual employees and seven California churches forced into abortion coverage in violation of their conscience.

Kaiser Permanente is among the insurers who have contacted churches about this bureaucratic nightmare. Here’s the Catch-22 part: if churches refuse to accept this, the result will not be jack-booted thugs banging on the door at midnight. It will simply be that insurance companies will cancel their health insurance, thus leaving tens of thousands of people either at risk for financial ruin, or forced on the federal exchange, where they will also be required to help subsidize other people’s abortions.

I can’t imagine what form of civil disobedience would be effective against this kind of evil, so I hope the courts have not completely lost their minds and will protect California churches from the Molech worship in which the state wishes to enlist them.

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