March 11, 2019
There is a new reality for churches and religious organizations in Washington state. Thanks to a law passed with the help of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, any employer that wants to provide group health insurance for its employees must provide a plan that covers abortions and abortifacients.
Think there is an exemption for churches or other religious organizations with religious objections to such coverage? Think again. While there are numerous exemptions, religious exemptions are not available for such employers.
So, when Cedar Park Assembly of God decided that it wanted to provide high quality group health insurance for its employees, it learned that it really only had three options:
- Violate its religious beliefs
- Violate the law
- Drop this crazy idea of providing health insurance for its employees like a hot potato
Fortunately, First Amendment law firm Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Cedar Park Assembly of God for this violation of religious conscience rights. ADF Legal Counsel Elissa Graves stated:
No church should be coerced to pay for abortions, least of all a church that dedicates its ministry to protecting and celebrating life. Cedar Park believes and teaches that every human life begins at conception and is worthy of protection at every point until natural death. Further still, Cedar Park demonstrates its pro-life ethic in tangible ways: partnership with a local pregnancy care center, hosting an annual camp for children in foster care, operating a school that serves over 1,000 students, and ministering to hundreds of couples struggling with infertility. The state of Washington has no business strong-arming this church, or any other, into contradicting the deeply held beliefs that motivate its ministry.
The law was passed under the notion that so-called “restrictions” on abortion coverage (which, in this case, means absence of compelled coverage) interfere with the “constitutionally protected right to safe and legal medical abortion care.” What about the principles of religious freedom?
When the state of Washington enacted this bill without any religious conscience protections for houses of worship like Cedar Park, it created a moral standard that said that a faith-based pro-life ethic is not worth protecting. It said that only the government’s morals—not morals derived from a source higher than government—should prevail. This bill is a clear violation of the principles of the First Amendment and is being rightfully challenged.