State Of Washington Drops Christian Science Coverage (November 1994)

The State of Washington has voted to drop reimbursement to Christian Science “practitioners” through its Uniform Medical Plan, following an ACLU complaint initiated at the request of Foundation member Matthew J. Barry, a graduate student at the University of Washington.

Earlier in the year, Barry successfully complained about coverage of Christian Science “treatment” (prayer) from the Student Accident and Sickness Insurance Plan.

In a letter to the Washington Health Care Authority, Kenneth Einar Himma, an ACLU attorney, pointed out that the payment of benefits to Christian Science practitioners violates the Washington Constitution, which provides that “[n]o public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or the support of any religious establishment.”

Added Himma, “Since the Christian Science practitioner treats illness exclusively through prayer, any payment of benefits to such a practitioner amounts to payment for religious worship, exercise and instruction. For this reason any payment of benefits for the services of a Christian Science practitioner constitutes the appropriation of public money for religious worship, exercise and instruction, and thus violates Article I, Section 11 of the Washington Constitution.”

The attorney invoked the earlier victory by Barry at the University level.

Two days after receiving the complaint, the chair of the Public Employees Benefits Board wrote to comply with the request to drop the unconstitutional coverage of Christian Science prayer.

“Yahoo!” was Matthew Barry’s reaction.

Freedom From Religion Foundation