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Religious freedom to discriminate prohibited.

Part 2 of two parts:

Courts find a Washington state law
that prohibits discrimination by
pharmacies to be constitutional:

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This topic continues from the previous essay.

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2015-JUL: The Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's ruling and upheld the state rule (Cont'd).

The Court of Appeals also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that a pharmacist can simply refer a customer to a nearby pharmacy who does stock and dispense the drugs. They noted that quick response is important because EC should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse in order to be most effective. 1

The court reasoned that the state rule applies to everyone equally. It does not target a specific religious belief. Thus, the state only has to show that its rule serves a rational purpose. 1

The plaintiffs' attorney, Katherine Waggoner, was from the Alliance Defending Freedom. This is a conservative Christian legal defense agency that has specialized recently in supporting government employees and owners of for-profit businesses who want to use their sincere religious freedom beliefs to discriminate against some of their customers. She stated that her clients plan to appeal, saying that:

"... the [United States] constitution clearly says that the government can’t punish people for their religious beliefs, which is what is happening here." 1

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Ned Milenkovich, writing for the Drug Topics section of said:

"Other counsel for the plaintiffs mirrored Waggoner’s sentiment, stating that 'the government has no business punishing citizens solely because of their religious beliefs,' and as 'the pharmacists in this case willingly refer patients to over 30 pharmacies that stock the morning-after pill within a five-mile radius, no patient has ever been denied timely access.'

The Ninth Circuit panel rejected the plaintiff’s arguments, stating that:

'The rules are rationally related to Washington’s legitimate interest in ensuring that its citizens have safe and timely access to their lawful and lawfully prescribed medications'." 1

The Ninth Court of Appeal's ruling was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on 2016-JAN-04.

Webmaster's comments: [bias alert]:

  • As in all other similar recent cases, I feel that the plaintiffs are not being punished for their religious beliefs as Ms. Waggoner stated. Rather, they are being punished because they are taking action based on their religious belief which discriminates against others. The analogy is often made to the freedom of a person to swing one's arms around. That freedom stops when the person's fist impacts another person's nose. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religious beliefs. It does not necessarily guarantee freedom of actions based on those beliefs.

  • One curious feature of this case is that none of the media outlets who covered this seemed to have discussed the applicability of the Golden Rule to the refusal of pharmacists to serve their customers. The Golden Rule, formally called the Ethic of Reciprocity, can be read in two biblical quotations attributed to Jesus:
  • "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12 2

  • "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31 2

Similar statements are found in the texts of all the major world religions.

Presumably the pharmacist plaintiffs who are Christians expect that when they personally go to a store to buy something, that they will not be rejected as a customer by the store owner or staff. Thus, if the pharmacists were to apply the Golden Rule in this case, they should feel obligated to fill their customers' prescriptions.

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2016-JUN-28: The U.S. Supreme Court decided to not consider the appeal:

With the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the balance of beliefs on the Supreme Court has shifted. There are now eight Justices remaining on the Court of whom four are considered conservative who look upon the Constitution to be a fixed document to be interpreted according to the mind set of its authors. The remaining four are considered liberals who consider the Constitution to be a living document as the American culture evolved.

Four Justices must agree to hear an appeal before it is accepted by the High Court. However, only three conservative Justice agreed to hear this case: Samuel A. Alito Jr., Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Clarence Thomas. 3

Kelsey Harkness, writing for The Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal said:

"The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a case challenging a Washington state law that forces a family-owned pharmacy to dispense emergency contraceptives is an 'ominous sign' for those who value religious freedom, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said.

'If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern'. Alito said Tuesday in a critical dissent." 4

Thus the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stands. Washington State will continue to require all pharmacists in the state to fill all legitimate prescriptions.

Kevin Stormans expects to continue to refuse to fill EC prescriptions, He said:

"I don’t know what the end result’s going to be. But it’s clear we’re here for a purpose. I’ll just ride this ship and do the right thing and believe God’s going to use that for His glory." 5

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Washington state to require pharmacies to stock Plan B. Ninth Circuit ruling requires provision of emergency contraceptives," Modern Medicine, 2015-SEP-10, at:
  2. Kelsey Harkness, "A Supreme Court Justice’s Dire Warning for Those Who Value Religious Freedom," The Daily Signal, 2016-JUN-28, at:
  3. From the King James Version of the Bible.
  4. Robert Barnes, "Supreme Court won’t hear challenge to rule that pharmacies dispense emergency contraception," Washington Post, 2016-JUN-28, at:
  5. "Stormans v. Wiesman," Alliance Defending Freedom, date unknown, at:

Some of the paths to this essay:

 Home page > Sex > Emergency Contraceptives > here

 Home page > "Hot" topics > Sex > Emergency Contraceptives > here

 Home page > Christianity > Christian history, belief... > Beliefs > Sex > Emergency Contraceptives > here

or Home page > Christianity > History, practices... > Christian practices > Sex > Emergency Contraceptives > here

or Home > Religious freedom > Freedom to discriminate > here

or Home > Important essays > Religious freedom > Freedom to discriminate > here

or Home > Religious information > Religious freedom > Freedom to discriminate > here

or Home > Human rights > Religious freedom > Freedom to discriminate > here

Copyright 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-JUL-03
Latest update : 2016-JUL-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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