A California pastor and passionate pro-lifer says he is willing to go to jail if necessary rather than meet the requirements of a new state mandate to include abortion cover in employee health plans.
Pastor Jack Hibbs leads Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in southern California, one of seven churches in the state that have joined forces to launch a legal challenge against a mandate introduced by the California Department of Managed Healthcare.
The mandate forces employers to provide coverage for elective abortions in their health insurance plans, and churches are not exempt.
Hibbs said he feels the US Constitution and religious freedom are "under attack", LiveActionNews reports.
"I felt violated; I felt forced," he said. "I love America and I love American history, and I have a lot of invested interest in defending the unborn."
The seven churches are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom and Life Legal Defense Foundation.
Their complaint, filed with the US Department of Health and Human Services, states that the mandate violates the religious freedom protected by the Constitution.
"The need to remedy this discrimination is urgent because it is immediately depriving Complainants of a health plan that omits elective abortions," the complaint reads.
They also argue that the mandate is a violation of the 2004 Weldon Amendment making religious organisations exempt from having to pay for abortion in their health insurance plans.
Hibbs told LiveActionNews he and the other church pastors were willing to go to prison for refusing abortion cover on the grounds of their religious beliefs.
"We will take this to the point of being jailed, if necessary, being arrested, if necessary - whatever it takes," he said.
"I cannot violate my biblical worldview. Once I have to do that, I no longer live in the United States our founding fathers gave me."
He went on to say that for a Christian, the issue was not a political one, but rather biblical.
"God is the engineer of life - he's the giver of life. I cannot think of a human being more defenseless than an unborn baby," he said.