3 - Washington state attempts to make churches pay for abortions
A law in the state of Washington signed into law last year forces churches to fund abortion in their health care plans. A ChristianHeadlines.com states that, "The law requires insurance plans to cover abortion if they also cover maternity care. It has no religious exemptions."
Alliance Defending Freedom has become in fighting against this new law, and the story says that ADF had filed a lawsuit "on behalf of Cedar Park Assembly of God, a Kirkland, Wash., congregation. The suit claims the law violates the congregation’s constitutionally protected freedom of religion and displays hostility toward religious groups that oppose abortion."
The suit referred to the law as an "intentional" "attack on people of faith." It stated, "The strong statutory language, lack of any church exception, and anticipated evidence that pro-abortion groups assisted in drafting and enacting SB 6219, indicates that Washington and its officials deliberately targeted religious organizations and intentionally violated those organizations’ religious beliefs.”
2 - Appeals court rules that housing allowance for ministers is constitutional
It was just a year and a half ago when a Federal district court judge ruled against the longstanding ministers' housing allowance in the U.S. tax code. But, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the past week has struck down that lower court ruling, according to ChristianityToday.com, which reported that:
Offered only to “ministers of the gospel,” the 60-year-old tax break excludes the rental value of a home from the taxable income of US clergy, CT previously reported. GuideStone Financial Resources has called it the “most important tax benefit available to ministers.”Th original lawsuit was filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and appeals court judge Michael Brennan wrote, according to the article, "FFRF claims Section 107(2) renders unto God that which is Caesar’s,” adding, “But this tax provision falls into the play between the joints of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause: neither commanded by the former, nor proscribed by the latter.”
The article points out that the Clergy Housing Allowance "...is currently claimed to the tune of $700 million a year..." This is the FFRF's second attempt to overturn the allowance, having been turned back in a Federal appeals court decision in 2014.
1 - Pro-life heartbeat bills advance in several states
There are a number of states who in the process of passing legislation that would ban abortion after the heartbeat of an unborn child is detected. Perhaps the most recent is Kentucky; according to Liberty Counsel:
Kentucky’s House passed Senate Bill 9, a fetal heartbeat bill, by a vote of 71 to 19 last night. SB 9 bans most abortions in the state once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The measure requires anyone seeking an abortion to first determine if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, typically about six weeks into pregnancy.Since that bill has already passed the Senate in the Bluegrass State, all it has to do is be signed by pro-life governor Matt Bevin to become law; then, of course, there will no doubt it will be challenged in court. In the neighboring state of Ohio, pro-life governor Mike DeWine has already said he would sign a heartbeat bill, something that his predecessor refused to do - twice. Cleveland.com reports, "The Ohio Senate passed a bill Wednesday afternoon that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected -- which would be one of the nation’s strictest bans on the procedure." the vote was 19-13. The bill now heads to the Ohio House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, Mississippi governor Phil Bryant is waiting on the state legislature to pass a heartbeat bill. The House and Senate had passed different versions, and just this week, the House passed the Senate version of the bill, with some minor changes, according to Jackson's Clarion-Ledger. It stated:
The House passed a bill Monday that outlaws abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can come as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
The Senate, where the bill originated, will have another chance to review and vote on the bill and minor House changes before it could head to Gov. Phil Bryant. Bryant has said he supports the legislation and would sign it into law.Georgia and Tennessee are other states where the heartbeat bills have recently passed one chamber of their legislatures.