9th Circuit Sides With Seattle-Based Church Forced to Defend Pro-Life Views in Court

July 23, 2021
Sarah Kramer

Cedar Park Church outside of Seattle, Washington is well-known for its commitment to the belief that all human life is precious and worth protecting.

And that commitment goes far beyond just voicing its beliefs on its website or in a Sunday service. Cedar Park puts those beliefs into action.

The church is involved in various pro-life ministries. It partners with foster care and adoption agencies, supports a local pregnancy center, and even co-founded an adoption agency for frozen embryos remaining after in vitro fertilization. Every year, Cedar Park also hosts “Presentation Sunday,” to pray for couples struggling with infertility.

Cedar Park also includes its beliefs about the sanctity of human life in its bylaws and employee handbook. Every member of its staff signs a statement of faith that includes these beliefs as well.

But a state law threatens to undermine this church’s pro-life culture.

In 2018, the Washington State Senate passed a law mandating that healthcare plans in the state offering maternity care must also pay for elective abortions. If Cedar Park were to refuse, it would face fines and criminal penalties, including jail time.

That’s why Cedar Park decided to take a stand. On July 9, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represented this church in court to challenge Washington’s law.

And now, the 9th Circuit has responded.

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that Cedar Park has a legitimate case against the State of Washington. The church suffered a free-exercise injury due to the government’s pro-abortion law, affirmed the court.

“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.”

Cedar Park shouldn’t be forced to choose between one of its core beliefs and providing quality health insurance for its more-than 180 employees.

Yet, that’s what Washington officials are demanding. They’re demanding that Cedar Park pay for abortions while teaching that abortion ends a human life made in God’s own likeness and running numerous pro-life ministries.

Cedar Park’s pro-life ministries have helped countless people and given them hope when they felt all was lost.

Nancy Morales was 25 years old and pregnant when she first visited Cedar Park. The father of her child had told her to get an abortion or raise their son on her own. Terrified and unsure, she chose the second option.

But her decision to attend Cedar Park that Sunday changed her life. She got connected with the pastor and his wife, and they offered her a job, enabling her to provide for her son. She still works there to this day. And her son, now a young man, attends Cedar Park’s school.

The church regularly invites women like Nancy to share their story. And it’s testimonies like hers that deeply impacted two teenagers.

These two teens had grown up in the pews of Cedar Park. They had listened as women shared their testimonies of how choosing to get an abortion filled their life with regret and hopelessness...and others who shared the joy that their unexpected pregnancies had brought them.

One of those teenagers was Jay Smith, who is now the senior pastor at Cedar Park. The other was his now-wife, Sandy Smith—the daughter of the previous senior pastor.

Just after Jay graduated high school, he and Sandy learned that Sandy was pregnant. But they knew abortion wasn’t an option. Just as they knew it wasn’t an option for the church to pay for abortions when they heard about Washington’s law.

Jay and Sandy’s daughter, the first of four, is alive today because of Cedar Park’s commitment to life. And that alone makes their stand against Washington State worth it.

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