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Concluded U.S. Courts of Appeals

Stormans v. Wiesman

Harmony—Not Hatred—is the True Goal of Religious Freedom


The Stormans family and pharmacists Margo Thelen and Rhonda Mesler have over 100 years of combined experience in pharmacy in Washington State. The Stormans, Margo, and Rhonda are Christians whose faith forbids them from participating in the destruction of human life, including dispensing abortion-inducing drugs, like the morning-after pill (Plan B) and ella. Prior to 2007, in Washington State, pharmacies were permitted to refer any customer requesting one of these drugs to a nearby pharmacy that dispensed it.

In 2007, after extreme pressure from pro-abortion groups, like Planned Parenthood, and Washington’s governor, the Washington Board of Pharmacy issued a new regulation requiring pharmacies to dispense Plan B and made religiously motivated referrals illegal—while at the same time permitting referrals for almost an unlimited number of business and convenience reasons.

The Stormans, Margo, and Rhonda challenged the new regulation in federal court. After a 12-day trial in 2012, the court ruled that the state Board of Pharmacy cannot force the family-owned pharmacy and two pharmacists to choose between their professions and their religious beliefs. The court held, “The facts of this case lead to the inescapable conclusion that the Board’s rules discriminate intentionally and impinge Plaintiffs’ fundamental right to free exercise of religion.”

The State of Washington and interveners, represented by Planned Parenthood and Legal Voice, appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  On July 23, 2015, a three-judge panel reversed the lower court’s decision, upholding the Washington Board of Pharmacy rules that force pharmacists to dispense drugs contrary to their conscience instead of allowing them to refer customers to other pharmacists as they are allowed to do in all 49 other states.  

Alliance Defending Freedom and its allies at Ellis, Li & McKinstry PLLC, a Seattle law firm, and the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, on June 28, 2016, the Court denied review of the case.

What's at stake

The right of pharmacists and pharmacy owners to act according to their faith

The right to express and live out one’s faith in the marketplace

The right to refrain from participating in the taking of human life

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom defended the Stormans family, Margo Thelen, and Rhonda Mesler free of charge.

Case Documents

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Kristen Waggoner
CEO, President, and General Counsel
As the CEO, president, and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, Kristen Waggoner leads the faith-based organization in advancing the God-given right to live and speak the truth in the U.S. and around the world.