The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled last Thursday in favor of a Seattle-based Church against the state of Washington for forcing it to fund abortions.
According to The Christian Post, the three-panel judge of the Ninth Circuit overturned the district court's decision that the Cedar Park Assembly of God of Kirkland has the right to sue the state for requiring churches to cover abortions through the health insurance they give to their employees.
The Christian Post said the Senate Bill 6219 is also called the Reproductive Parity Act, which was signed into law on March 2018 by Governor Jay Inslee. The governor signed the bill into law after the Senate passed it in a vote of 27-22 that month and the House of Representatives in a vote of 50-48 on February that year.
Senate Bill 6219, an act which intends to improve reproductive health access and gender equity, requires that health plans that will be issued or renewed "on or after January 1, 2019" are to provide a full extent of reproductive health care services including abortion.
The Christian Headlines, on the other hand, pointed out that SB 6219 does not give exemptions to houses of worship. The outlet also explained that judge's decision revives the lawsuit since now the case will be heard again in the district court.
Cedar park claimed in its lawsuit that it's health insurance provider, Kaiser Permanente, was forced by Senate Bill 6219 to stop "offering a plan with abortion coverage restrictions" such that they were unable to "procure comparable replacement coverage."
The Ninth Circuit unanimously decided in favor of the church in the case entitled "Cedar Park Assembly of God of Kirkland v. Kreidler," who is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom. The lawsuit was filed against Washington Insurance Commissioner Myron "Mike" Kreidler in his official capacity and against the governor, also in his official capacity. The court ruled that it was right for the church to challenge the state's mandate to cover abortion and that it was wrong for the district court to "dismiss the church's free-exercise claim."
"Cedar Park's complaint plausibly alleged that, due to the enactment of SB 6219, its health insurer (Kaiser Permanente) stopped offering a plan with abortion coverage restrictions and Cedar Park could not procure comparable replacement coverage. This is sufficient to state an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to SB 6219," the court said in its ruling.
The Court, however, pointed out that the church's claims of "unequal treatment" in line with the Equal Protection Clause's provision for incuring injuries because of the law was found unsubstantial and sided with the district court's decision on it. The Court nonetheless approved the motion for preliminary injunction and for the "motion to leave to file a supplemental complaint." Moreover, the court granted the dismissal of the "state's motion to dismiss" the case.
"Although the state argues that Cedar Park did not suffer an injury caused by SB 6219 because other health insurers offered plans that would meet Cedar Park's requirements, this argument also fails given that Kaiser Permanente dropped Cedar Park's abortion coverage restrictions due to SB 6219, and there is no evidence in the record clearly demonstrating that Cedar Park could obtain acceptable coverage at the time it filed its complaint," the Ninth Circuit court pointed out in its ruling.
Alliance Defending Freedom, through its Vice President Elissa Graves, applauded the Ninth Circuit judges' decision as a defense of churches against states who actually have "no legal authority" to force the funding of abortion on such places of worship since it is a violation of religious rights and beliefs.
"No church should be forced to cover abortions, and certainly not a church like Cedar Park that dedicates its ministry to protecting and celebrating life. We are pleased the 9th Circuit rightly recognized the harm that Washington state has inflicted on Cedar Park Church in subjecting it to this unprecedented mandate," Graves said.
"Washington state has no legal authority to force places of worship to fund abortions and violate their constitutional rights, as well as their religious beliefs," she stressed. "Today's decision is a big step forward in preventing the government from targeting churches and we look forward to continue challenging this law at the district court."
Cedar Park Pastor Jay Smith stressed that he filed the lawsuit since Washington is the only state that forces churches to offer abortion coverage in their health care insurance on top of his commitment for the sanctity of life, which he said is not only "lip service" out of "some vague" religious philosophy.
Smith has dedicated his church to partnerships that foster the sanctity of life. He works with local pregnancy centers, sponsors a childcare camp, as well as, operates a funeral home. This is on top of organizing special prayer services for couples who are have fertility issues.