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Washington State to Churches: 'Pay for Abortions or Break the Law'

03-11-2019
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The skyline of Seattle, Washington. (AP Photo)
The skyline of Seattle, Washington. (AP Photo)

Kevin Theriot, the senior counsel and vice president of the Center for Life with Alliance Defending Freedom, appeared on Tuesday's CBN Newswatch program to discuss this case. Click the player above to watch. 

The attorneys for a church in Seattle filed a federal lawsuit on Friday against Washington state officials for forcing churches to pay for elective abortions in their health insurance.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyers representing Cedar Park Assembly of God, challenged the constitutionality and legality of a new state mandate that requires the Seattle-area church to fund abortion if it provides its staff members access to group health insurance.

"No church should be coerced to pay for abortions, least of all a church that dedicates its ministry to protecting and celebrating life," ADF Legal Counsel Elissa Graves said in a press release.  "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 press release continued. "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 church's lawsuit challenges the constitutionality and legality of Washington State Senate Bill 6219, legislation signed into law last March. The legislation requires Cedar Park to provide coverage for abortion if the church also offers maternity care coverage to its employees, or face fines and criminal penalties, including imprisonment.

"Washington state has gone out of its way to bully churches and other religious nonprofits to violate their beliefs by paying for abortions," said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot, vice president of the ADF Center for Life, said in a press release.  "The Supreme Court has consistently held that government hostility toward people of faith is unconstitutional and has no place in our society. The state's policy crushes dissent and violates the Constitution's Free Exercise Clause by targeting Cedar Park's entirely legitimate internal policies and religious beliefs."

The ADF complaint explains that Cedar Park purchased a group health insurance plan in order to provide high-quality health care coverage for its employees and fulfill its legal obligations under the law.

"As part of its commitment to care for its employees and their families," the complaint states, "Cedar Park provides comprehensive insurance coverage for maternity care. Cedar Park believes that maternity care is an integral part of its call to provide for the health of its employees and their families. Because of its religious beliefs, however, Cedar Park seeks to offer health insurance coverage to its employees in a way that does not also cause it to pay for abortions."

According to the website Christian Headlines.com, the Washington State Catholic Conference expressed concern over the bill's lack of religious exemptions before it passed last year. But the bill's sponsor, Democrat state Sen. Steve Hobbs, declined to change it, saying employers had the option of suing. 

"Health care is about the individual, not about them," Hobbs told KOMO-TV

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