On July 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill known as the Conscience Protection Act — intended to protect the rights of health care providers, churches and other groups that object to participating in abortion. Seated in the House Gallery, one man watched the vote with all the intensity of a general going into war.
Jim Garlow, father of eight children and pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, California, sat with his wife and a dozen congregants who prayed and discussed events unfolding on the House floor. While others visit the nation's capital city for summer vacation, this team came with purpose.
Nearly two years ago, Garlow was thrust into a battle with the State of California — when his church objected to a new state mandate involving abortion. Since then, he has found that the pro-choice bias in state and federal government is no casual affair.
"They are ruthless," Garlow says.
Yet his church refuses to bow to the state. Represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, their lawsuit against California is ongoing. In an interview following the House vote, Jim Garlow shares what he testified to Congress, his personal connection with the pro-life cause … and the covert strategy he sees at work in politics today.
Bound4LIFE: What recent events in California led your church to file a lawsuit against the state to defend your pro-life convictions?
Pastor Jim Garlow: On August 22, 2014, some nameless, faceless bureaucrat at the Department of Managed Health Care in Sacramento made a decision by fiat: that every insurance provider in the state of California had to include elective abortion in our plans.
I found out about that decision 60 days later. An attorney who assists us at Skyline Church said, "You're now covering abortions in your insurance." I said, "There's no way." "No, you are." "Surely not — we would've been notified or something! We would've seen this in the media?"
I asked our team to follow-up about it and that attorney was right. We were being forced to pay for abortions, and in fact everyone in California is.
We began to ask what we could do — what is our legal recourse? There were many conference calls. We appealed directly to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at the time. She stalled our inquiry forever and did nothing. HHS would not enforce the law as written, which protects our rights.
A number of churches, hospitals, as well as Christian universities, both evangelical and Catholic, filed a complaint against the federal government. On June 22, a federal agency dismissed that coalition complaint. Our church filed a separate lawsuit against the state of California in a federal court, which is currently ongoing.
Bound4LIFE: Are there specific policies already enacted that protect medical professionals — or any citizens — who do not want to be involved in abortion?
Pastor Jim Garlow: If you're an OB-GYN doctor or a nurse, and you refuse to perform an abortion, there are several federal statutes that protect you. The Hyde Amendment is the most well-known, prohibiting federal funding of abortion. There's the Church Amendments — not named for "church," like a congregation; it refers to Frank Church, former senator from Idaho.
There's also the Coats-Snowe Amendment, named for Dan Coats and Olympia Snowe. They are two people on opposite sides of the abortion issue, but they agreed that people should not be coerced to be involved in abortion.
But the Weldon Amendment, named after Congressman Dave Weldon who is a medical doctor, is the most relevant. The Obama Administration has twisted the Weldon Amendment in such a way that, if any medical professional objected to providing abortions, they can be fired with no right to litigation.
It's bizarre. When the law is violated, people always have the right to sue — but now none of these people could. On top of that, churches are also coerced to cover abortions.
I testified this past Friday before the Energy and Commerce Committee — their Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Congressman Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania. I flew home, preached in San Diego, then flew back here Monday to speak to Congressional staff about this issue — 60 key people influencing their bosses, who are Members of Congress.
We've been in meetings one after another with Congressmen, specifically bringing up the Conscience Protection Act and how it helps correct these issues. I also have a new book called Well Versed: Biblical Answers to Today's Tough Issues; a team from Skyline Church came as volunteers and hand-delivered copies to all 535 Members of Congress. They believe the message is that important.