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Church Sues State

Cedar Park objects to a new law requiring coverage of abortion in insurance policies.
Cedar Park Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in Bothell, Washington, filed a federal lawsuit on March 8 against Washington state officials to challenge a newly implemented law that forces all employers — including churches that already provide maternity coverage — to pay for abortion and abortifacient contraceptives in health insurance plans.

“We’re standing for the rights of people of faith to not be forced into being complicit with something inconsistent with our faith,” says Jay W. Smith, senior pastor of the Seattle-area church. “Abortion is the antithesis of who we are as an organization, what our beliefs are, and how we live out our faith.”

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a religious liberties organization based in Scottsdale, Arizona, filed the suit, Cedar Park Assembly of Kirkland v. Kreidler, on behalf of the church. Mike Kreidler is insurance commissioner for the State of Washington.

The suit contends Washington’s law is an intentional attack on people of faith. No abortion exemptions are allowed for churches or religious organizations that provide insurance coverage for maternity care. Cedar Park currently provides comprehensive coverage as part of its employee package.

“Cedar Park’s deeply held religious belief is that abortion is the ending of a human life and is a grave sin,” the suit declares.

The bill, signed last year by Gov. Jay Inslee, requires employee health plans to also “provide a covered person with substantially equivalent coverage to permit the abortion of a pregnancy.”

The suit contends that Cedar Park cannot use tithes and offerings for purposes deemed to be religiously and morally repugnant to its members.

Kristen K. Waggoner, senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom, notes that under the current law church leaders would face not only fines, but also prison time for noncompliance.

“Government shouldn’t force a church that believes life begins at conception to pay for abortion,” Waggoner says.

Cedar Park, with a weekly attendance of 1,500, has 185 employees who are eligible for health insurance coverage. Under its umbrella is Cedar Park Christian Schools, which includes five campuses and a preschool program. The Bothell campus has over 1,000 students from prekindergarten to 12th grade.

Clint M. Behrends is superintendent of Cedar Park Christian Schools. Behrends is the father of Waggoner, who filed the suit for ADF.

The church has a long history of prolife activism, including hosting an annual camp for children in foster care, partnering with a local pregnancy care center, ministering to couples struggling with infertility, and facilitating 1,000 embryo adoptions.

Unexpected pregnancy is more than theoretical for Smith and his wife, Sandy. As unmarried teenagers, they chose to wed rather than abort Talia, now the oldest of their four daughters.

According to the church’s constitution and bylaws, all human life is sacred and made by God, in His image. “As such, we as Christians are called to defend, protect, and value all human life.” All employees are required to sign a statement to abide by standards of conduct, which includes following biblical standards for human sexuality.

“Cedar Park believes and teaches that abortion violates the Bible’s command against the intentional destruction of innocent human life,” the suit states.

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.