“Sue the State” Shouldn’t be Part of Any Pastor’s Job Description


John Harding

Chris Lewis, pastor of Foothill Church in California, takes shepherding God’s people very seriously.

Right now, that role includes legal action against the state of California. Even though Lewis started his career as an attorney before enrolling in seminary, bearing the church’s legal burden is not something he thought he would ever need to do. And quite frankly, it’s not something that church leaders should have to do.

“I think I knew there was going to be things I had to deal with,” Lewis said, after considering what he originally thought his pastoral role would include. “I had to deal with issues in the congregation. I had to deal with the brokenness of humanity. I had to deal with issues that the Gospel confronts.”

Lewis’s expectations were largely in line with what most pastors in America today consider when entering the ministry. Pastoring a church is a difficult task with eternal implications. Funerals. Weddings. Administration. Counseling sessions. Sermon preparations. Staff meetings. Board meetings. Crises. Teaching. Reproving. Disciplining. Discipling. Repeat.

Even as a former attorney, Lewis didn’t see the legal threats to his church’s religious liberty coming: “I don’t think in my wildest dreams, I thought the day would come in my ministry where I would have to fight the state,” he said.

When the California Department of Managed Health Care started forcing churches to pay for elective abortions in their employee health insurance plans, however, it affected the staff and congregants at Foothill Church. Given the church’s beliefs about the sanctity of human life, they knew they could not stand by while the government imposed its beliefs on them.

The church, just outside of Los Angeles, couldn’t fathom teaching about the gift of human life on Sunday all while providing elective abortion coverage to its employees week after week.

That’s where Alliance Defending Freedom comes in. By God’s grace, we have had the privilege of representing Foothill Church in this case since 2015.

We’re asking specifically that the state would provide a religious exemption for churches, so that they no longer must choose between offering health insurance to employees that covers elective abortions and offering no health insurance coverage to employees at all. The outcome of this case will have an impact on churches across the state. Please pray for victory for this courageous and faithful church as its case against California continues.

Foothill Church is one of many churches who receive legal help from ADF Church & Ministry Alliance. Learn more about ADF Church & Ministry Alliance and how we can help prepare and protect your church through a review of its bylaws and policies, regular legal consultation and advice to your church leadership, legal representation, and more.

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