Seattle-area church fights forced funding of abortions
Attorneys for the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom just filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Cedar Park Assembly of God of Kirkland, near Seattle, over a Washington state mandate passed a year ago, via Senate Bill 6219, requiring employers who provide maternity care in their group insurance plans to also cover elective abortions.
Talk about bullying the believers.
And in fact, that’s just how ADF’s Vice President Kevin Theriot termed it, in a press release announcing the suit: “Washington state has gone out of its way to bully churches and other religious nonprofits to violate their beliefs by paying for abortions. 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,” he said.
The at-issue matter here is the church’s group health care plan.
Cedar Park, according to the complaint filed in court by ADF, provides comprehensive health insurance for employees that includes maternity care, but not abortions.
And that puts it at odds with a law passed last year linking abortion coverage with maternity care, and requiring organizations that offer the second to also offer the first — else face fines, penalties and, perhaps, imprisonment. The law, which took effect for health plans issued or renewed after Jan. 1, 2019, also requires health plans to provide low-cost coverage for contraceptives and elective sterilizations, the Seattle Times reported.
Where’s the religious exemptions, you say?
Well, religious-based organizations did press the sponsor, Democrat Sen. Steve Hobbs, to carve out an exemption based on faith. But he refused.
“Health care is about the individual,” he said, when asked by KOMO TV to explain his refusal to exempt churches from the mandate.
So now the fight heads to court — as it should.
“It is a travesty that Washington state is acting in such a hostile way to its citizens basic rights of conscience and of religious liberty,” said Catherine Glenn Foster, the president and CEO of the pro-life nonprofit Americans United for Life, in a written statement. “To coerce a church into funding abortions — and especially to coerce a conscientious objector into funding elective, optional abortions that are not medically necessary — is simply an example of the state attempting to dominate the citizens it exists to serve.”
When it comes to abortion, a church — a church, for crying out loud — should have the right to yay or nay the coverage in its insurance plan. A church should have the right of refusal on paying for abortions. Does it get any more obvious than that?
That just seems the epitome of what religious freedom means — of what the First Amendment and Constitution guarantee.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.
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