WA Church Files Lawsuit Over Right Not to Pay for Abortions

Cedar Park Church in Bothell, Washington, has filed a lawsuit against the state of Washington over the right to refuse paying for abortions in its insurance coverage.  

“It’s important to challenge this law because the government should not have the power to force people to pay for abortions, let alone a church that has a religious conviction that life begins at conception,” says Kristen Waggoner. Waggoner is the Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Advocacy for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) (she has also been the legal representation for cake artist, Jack Phillips).

Governor Jay Inslee signed SB 6219 into law in March 2018. The law requires all insurance providers in the state that offer maternity insurance also to cover abortions and offers no religious exemptions as some other states do. Before Gov. Inslee signed the bill, Catholic bishops in Washington urged him to veto it, saying, “Even those who do not share our unconditional commitment to the dignity of every person from the moment of conception, have every reason to support our right to exercise our conscience in accord with the teachings of our faith.”

More Than Just a Lawsuit

Jay Smith is the senior pastor of Cedar Park Church. The question of how to respond to a crisis pregnancy is not merely a moral issue for him and his wife, Sandy, but also a personal one. They got pregnant out of wedlock when they were teenagers, something Jay describes as “a shock.” Sandy says she bought around 10 pregnancy tests, hoping to discover that she wasn’t really pregnant. Jay had to face Sandy’s dad, who was his pastor, with the news. The New American reports that Sandy temporarily considered getting an abortion.

Instead, she went through with her pregnancy, and supported by their families, Sandy and Jay got married the summer after they graduated from high school. Their oldest daughter, Talia, was born the following March. Regarding whether or not having their daughter was a “mistake,” Jay says, “When you see the child that is born as a result of that mistake…if that’s a mistake, that’s the greatest mistake that I have ever made in my life.”

The people of Cedar Park Church also invest a lot of time and energy in helping women and children who are in vulnerable situations. The ADF says,

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.

What Would the Suit Accomplish?

According to the New American, if Cedar Park wins the suit, the court will issue a permanent injunction preventing the state from taking any action against the church for not covering abortion in its insurance. Currently, for anyone who disobeys the law, the penalties are fines and imprisonment. A win for Cedar Park would also mean that other religious bodies throughout the state would be protected should they choose not to cover abortion. 

Previous articleThe Sinicization of the Church in China
Next articleTithe: Four Spheres That Need Your Financial Gifts
Jessica Mouser
Jessica Mouser is a writer for ChurchLeaders.com. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past two years. She especially enjoys evaluating how various beliefs play out within culture. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys playing the piano, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.

Get the ChurchLeaders Daily Sent to Your Inbox