Eighteen states, along with several pro-life groups, filed legal briefs supporting Cedar Park Church in its lawsuit against a Washington state law requiring religious employers to cover abortions in health insurance plans.
The states, led by South Carolina, argue the law violates the Kirkland-based church’s religious freedom rights. Their “friend of the court” briefs back an appeal to the 9th Circuit by Alliance Defending Freedom lawyers representing Cedar Park Church.
Washington’s 2018 Reproductive Parity Act mandates abortion coverage in health plans that offer maternity benefits. Cedar Park claims the law infringes on its religious beliefs against facilitating abortion.
Initially dismissed, the suit was revived by the 9th Circuit in 2021. But the district court recently rejected Cedar Park’s claims on the merits, prompting Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys to file this second appeal to defend the church’s religious autonomy.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.
Over the last 12 years, ADF has achieved 15 victories at the United States Supreme Court.
Alliance Defending Freedom Church Alliance and Alliance Defending Freedom Ministry Alliance are ministry arms of Alliance Defending Freedom created to assist churches and ministries facing legal threats to their religious mission and protected freedoms.
These ministry arms equip faith communities to stand firm in an ever-changing cultural and legal landscape through training resources and direct legal aid.
In Cedar Park Assembly of God of Kirkland v. Kreidler, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argued that Washington’s abortion coverage mandate substantially burdens Cedar Park’s sincere religious beliefs and practices under the Free Exercise Clause and coerces the church into violating its beliefs by forcing it to facilitate access to abortion coverage.
Additionally, they pointed out that the mandate contains secular exemptions but not for religious objectors like Cedar Park.
The mandate also violates the First Amendment by interfering in the internal governance decisions of a religious institution in a way that affects its faith and mission. The church has a right to decide healthcare coverage consistent with its religious beliefs, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argued.
In their brief, the 18 states say the lower court ignored the religious basis for Cedar Park’s opposition. They warn that the law threatens religious autonomy, fueling a dangerous precedent.
Cedar Park says its insurer told them it would remove the abortion coverage if courts exempt the church.
ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch says that Cedar Park Church celebrates and protects life from conception to natural death and that it is unconscionable for the state to force any church to pay for abortions.
“The abortion coverage mandate requires Cedar Park to act contrary to its religious beliefs and violates its constitutionally protected freedoms.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court established that the government cannot compel religious organizations to act in violation of their sincerely held faith convictions. As these other states and advocates affirm, Washington can’t trample on Cedar Park’s right to provide health care for its employees without compromising its faith,” Bursch said.