For those who cherish the sanctity of life, two recent appellate court decisions are especially bitter pills to swallow. These bad rulings will require many more months of very costly and hard-fought litigation against our own government – a government that, formed to protect religious freedom, has tragically become its great adversary.
On July 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit announced its decision to uphold Washington(State) Board of Pharmacy rules that force pharmacists and pharmacy owners to stock and dispense early abortifacient drugs contrary to their conscience, rather than allowing them to refer customers to other pharmacists – as 49 other states permit. In practice, the state continues to allow pharmacists to refer patients for business and convenience reasons but bans referrals motivated by religious beliefs.
The 9th Circuit’s decision overturns a district court ruling that held that the board’s rules were clearly and specifically designed to target pharmacists with religious objections to dispensing Plan B and ella, forcing them either to sell the abortifacient pills or lose their license.
“With 33 pharmacies stocking the drug within five miles of our store, it is extremely disappointing that the court and the state demand that we violate our conscience or lose our family business,” says Stormans, Inc. President Kevin Stormans, whose family is among the plaintiffs in the case, Stormans v. Wiesman. (The family owns two groceries that operate a pharmacy in Olympia, Washington.) “All we are asking is to be able to live out the beliefs that we hold, as Americans have always been able to do, and to be able to refer patients for religious reasons, as the medical and pharmaceutical associations overwhelmingly recommend.”
“The government should not force health care providers to participate in the taking of human life, nor should it requires them to choose between their religious convictions and their licenses, family businesses, and livelihoods,” says Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Vice President of Legal Services Kristen Waggoner. “As the district court noted, drugs like Plan B and ellaare widely accessible within the state. No woman anywhere in Washington has been denied timely access to these drugs for religious reasons. We will appeal this ruling.” (And pray that the Supreme Court will rule as strongly in reversing the Ninth Circuit as it did in the ADF-litigated Reed case, also lost at the Ninth Circuit before a 9-0 win at the Supreme Court this past June.)
On July 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit issued similar bad news against four Christian schools in Oklahoma – Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Baptist University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, and Mid-America Christian University. The court’s ruling overturned a district court’s order (in Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell) that had been blocking enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate against the schools.
“The government should not force faith-based organizations to be involved in providing abortion pills to their employees or students,” says ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “All Americans should oppose unjust laws that force people – under threat of punishment – to give up their fundamental freedoms in order to provide health plans the government prefers.
“These Christian colleges simply want to abide by the very faith they espouse and teach,” Baylor says. “The court is wrong to allow the government to punish people of faith for making decisions consistent with that faith.” The schools, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case.
The news was better for Illinois-based Tyndale House Publishers and its owners, who are also represented by ADF attorneys. On July 15, a federal district court issued a permanent injunction blocking government enforcement of the abortion pill mandate, which would require employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. Employers failing to do so would face the threat of heavy financial penalties through the Internal Revenue Service.
“Americans should be free to live and work according to their faith without fear of punishment by the government,” says ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “That includes Bible publishers, who should be free to do business according to the book that they publish.”
“In America, citizens have always had the freedom to believe, the freedom to express those beliefs, and the freedom to operate their businesses accordingly. The Supreme Court upheld that principle in its Conestoga/Hobby Lobby decision last year, and the district court has rightly done the same.” (ADF staff and allied attorneys represented Conestoga Wood Specialties in its victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, and are litigating numerous other lawsuits against the mandate.)
These decisions have ongoing – and growing – implications for all Christians, including your family, friends, and fellow church members, as the government more and more asserts its self-assumed authority to force people of faith to ignore or abandon their most cherished beliefs. Please be in special prayer for those trying to stand against these efforts … and for our ADF attorneys and their allies, as we work to forge strategies to oppose these government directives.
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