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Supreme Court of the United States

This Church Wants to Fight Abortion, Not Pay for It – So It Sued the State of Washington

By Denise Burke posted on:
March 7, 2019

When Washington State passed SB 6219, Jay and Sandy Smith took notice.

SB 6219 mandates that all health insurance plans that cover maternity care also cover abortion, offering no exemptions for those with religious, moral, or conscientious objections to abortion.

Jay is the senior pastor at Cedar Park Church—a family of churches in Washington that also operates a Christian school. And life issues are particularly close to Jay and Sandy’s hearts. Every year, Cedar Park hosts a special service to pray for those with fertility problems. It partners with a local pregnancy center, as well as foster care and adoption agencies. And the church participates in the March for Life every year.

But it is even more personal than that for Jay and Sandy, who grew up together at Cedar Park. They started dating in high school and planned to get married after graduation. And then Sandy got pregnant at 18. Despite being the pastor’s daughter, and Jay the son of a deacon, Sandy briefly thought about getting an abortion. Instead, they chose life – and were blessed with the first of their four daughters.

That’s why this law felt like a slap in the face.

And it’s why they decided to take a stand. Today, Cedar Park filed a lawsuit against SB 6219.




While Roe v. Wade legalized the practice of abortion, there is no constitutionally protected right to force anyone to pay for or facilitate someone else’s abortion. The Washington government cannot make up rights and pretend that those manufactured rights override the First Amendment.



American history, tradition, and law confirm that no one should be forced to commit or participate in an act that is against his or her religious or moral beliefs, including being forced to pay for it.

Thomas Jefferson emphatically stated that no provision in the Constitution “ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of civil authority,” and maintained that forcing a person to contribute to a cause to which he or she morally opposes is “tyrannical.”

Forcing a church or Christian school to provide and pay for insurance that covers abortion—a practice that many Americans oppose—and threatening it with government punishment if it refuses to violate its religious beliefs is undeniably tyrannical.

Thankfully, Cedar Park is taking a stand against the government’s attempts to erase the freedom of conscience – a freedom that Washington’s state constitution and state law supposedly protects.

Specifically, the Washington Constitution reads: “Absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship, shall be guaranteed to every individual, and no one shall be molested or disturbed in person or property on account of religion …”

Washington law further recognizes that “every individual possesses a fundamental right to exercise their religious beliefs and conscience,” and provides that “[n]o individual or organization with a religious or moral tenet opposed to a specific service may be required to purchase coverage for that service or services if they object to doing so for reason of conscience or religion.”

But Washington continues to distance itself from this pledge.

It has sought to force pharmacists to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs against their religious beliefs—while allowing pharmacists to refer for all kinds of nonreligious reasons. And Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman continues to fight in court for her right to choose what events to celebrate and messages to express with her artistic talents.

SB 6219 is yet another example of Washington turning its back on its commitment to uphold individual freedom of conscience.

Denise Burke

Denise Burke

Senior Counsel

Denise Burke serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a member of the Center for Legislative Advocacy.

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