Cedar Park Assembly of God of Kirkland v. Kreidler
Description: A Washington state law, SB 6219, forces churches to cover elective abortions in their health insurance plans. As a result of the state’s mandate, Cedar Park Church’s insurance carrier inserted surgical abortion coverage directly into the church’s health plan.
9th Circuit rules in favor of Seattle-area church forced to pay for abortions
SEATTLE – Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that a Seattle-area church properly challenged the state’s abortion coverage mandate and that a lower court was wrong to dismiss the church’s free-exercise claim.
The 9th Circuit recognized that Cedar Park Church, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, suffered an injury after Washington state Senate Bill 6219 was signed into law in March 2018. The law requires Cedar Park to provide coverage for abortion if the church also offers maternity care coverage to its employees or face fines and criminal penalties, including imprisonment.
In its ruling, the 9th Circuit stated: “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.”
“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,” said ADF Legal Counsel Elissa Graves. “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.”
The church’s lawsuit, Cedar Park Assembly of God of Kirkland v. Kreidler, challenges the constitutionality of Senate Bill 6219 that forces places of worship to cover elective abortions in their health insurance plans despite religious objections. Cedar Park’s insurance carrier inserted surgical abortion coverage directly into Cedar Park’s health plan after the law went into effect. The insurer indicated that it would remove the offensive coverage if a court were to hold the law cannot constitutionally be applied to churches.
“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,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate John Bursch. “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.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.
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Elissa Graves serves as legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a key member of the Center for Life. Since joining ADF in 2013, Graves has focused her efforts on protecting the First Amendment freedoms of pro-life pregnancy centers and their staff, as well as pro-life sidewalk counselors. Graves earned her Juris Doctor at the University of Texas School of Law in 2013. She is member of the state bars of Arizona, Texas, and the District of Columbia. Graves is also admitted to multiple federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom. Bursch has argued 12 U.S. Supreme Court cases and more than 30 state supreme court cases since 2011, and a recent study concluded that among all frequent Supreme Court advocates who did not work for the federal government, he had the 3rd highest success rate for persuading justices to adopt his legal position. Bursch served as solicitor general for the state of Michigan from 2011-2013. He has argued multiple Michigan Supreme Court cases in eight of the last ten terms and has successfully litigated hundreds of matters nationwide, including six with at least $1 billion at stake. As part of his private firm, Bursch Law PLLC, he has represented Fortune 500 companies, foreign and domestic governments, top public officials, and industry associations in high-profile cases, primarily on appeal. He received his J.D. magna cum laude in 1997 from the University of Minnesota Law School and is admitted to practice in numerous federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.