The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has ruled in favor of Cedar Park Church, proclaiming that the Evangelical church does not have to pay for employee's abortion coverage.
In 2019, the state of Washington passed a law that if a business wishes to provide maternity care coverage to employees, then that coverage must also include coverage of abortions, lest the company face fines and criminal penalties. The legal non-profit Alliance Defending Freedom decided to file suit on behalf of the church to challenge this law. ADF argued that the law in question violates the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause "by targeting the church's legitimate internal policies and religious beliefs." The District Court initially dismissed the case, but the Court of Appeals took it up as of July 9th.
In their ruling, the 9th Circuit decided that "Cedar Park's complaint plausibly alleged that, due to the enactment of [Washington's law], its health insurer 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 [the law]."
"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," stated ADF Legal Counsel Elissa Graves in a press release. "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."
ADF Senior Counsel John Bursch echoed these notions, arguing that "Today's decision is a big step forward in preventing the government from targeting churches, and we look forward to continually challenging this law at the district court."