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Constitutional Rights & the Public’s Health

Skyline Wesleyan Church v. Cal. Dep’t of Managed Health Care

Overview

Skyline Wesleyan Church v. Cal. Dep’t of Managed Health Care (U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, July 21, 2020): The Ninth Circuit overturned the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) violated Skyline Wesleyan Church’s constitutional right to free exercise of religion because of its requirement that insurance plans must offer abortion as a basic health care service. The trial court originally dismissed the case on the grounds that Skyline, a Christian church, had not established proper standing with respect to its federal free exercise claim. The Ninth Circuit, however, found that Skyline could pursue its case. First, Skyline suffered an injury in fact due to DHMC’s policy. After the change in DHMC policy, Skyline’s new insurance violated its religious beliefs because it did not offer a plan to religious employers that excluded abortion coverage. In addition, the injury could be redressed by a favorable decision through either nominal damages or a permanent injunction. While Skyline’s claim is justiciable, the court ultimately declined to decide the case, sending it back to the trial court for further deliberations. Read the full opinion here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – September 14, 2020.

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