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Lawsuits & Litigation

Church Sues State of Washington Over Reproductive Parity Act

— March 15, 2019

The Cedar Park Assembly of God, together with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), is suing the state of Washington over a new law, the Reproductive Parity Act.

The state of Washington recently came under fire in a lawsuit filed by an evangelical church. The suit was filed back on March 8 on behalf of Cedar Park Assembly of God regarding complaints “over a new law requiring employers to cover abortion in insurance plans if those policies also cover maternity.” The law is known as the Reproductive Parity Act and it was signed into law about a year ago.

According to court documents, the church currently offers group insurance to about 185 eligible employees through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the ACA, churches are exempted from providing abortion coverage that is otherwise mandated for other businesses. However, under the new Reproductive Parity Act, churches would be forced to offer coverage for abortions. When commenting on the matter, Jay Smith, the pastor at Cedar Park Assembly of God said:

Washington State Capitol
Washington State Capitol; image courtesy of Cacophony via Wikimedia Commons,

“What we are fighting and standing for are the rights of people of faith to not be forced into being complicit with something that’s inconsistent with our faith. We distinctly do not cover abortion because it’s the antithesis of who we are as an organization, what our beliefs are, how we live out our faith.”

It’s important to note that prior to the new law’s passage, a revision to the law was proposed that would have allowed the continued exemption for churches and other religious organizations. Unfortunately for the church, the proposed revision was struck down.

So what happens if churches refuse to follow the new law? Well, any church or individual who violates the law will “face criminal penalties including monetary fines and imprisonment.”

In addition to Cedar Park Assembly of God, there are nearly 350 other Southern Baptist congregations throughout Washington, though none have reported “any challenges stemming from the new law” to the Northwestern Baptist Convention (NWBC). Randy Adams, the Executive Director of the NWBC said, “we’ve not had anything from our churches regarding this new law.” He added that the convention “itself is insured through GuideStone Financial Resources of the SBC,” and isn’t affected by the new state law. He added:

“I do know our attorney general [Bob Ferguson] and our governor [Jay Inslee] in Washington are as hostile toward religion and activities of faith as can be. Bob Ferguson is always on the opposite side regarding these cultural issues, opposite from where we would be when it comes to religious liberty rights [for] employers, religious owners, and churches.”

Representing the Cedar Park Assembly of God is Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). In filing the lawsuit, it hopes to challenge the new law “based on the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.” Elissa Graves, an ADF attorney, said:

“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: a 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.”


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