SCOTUS and Religious Liberty 2016

Fortnight for Freedom Case of the Day
Stormans Inc v. Wiesman, 15-862

Ralph Stormans opened his first Food Center in 1944; it was the fist large supermarket in Olympia, Washington. In the past seventy years the business has grown to include a cooking school, a catering business, and a florist. The fourth generation of Stormans now stand at the helm. Alongside their success, the owners have been engaged in an 11-year legal battle for refusing to stock and dispense abortifacient drugs at their pharmacy.

In 2007 Washington State became the first and remains the only state to ban referrals to other pharmacies for conscience reasons. In 2012, a federal district court ruled in favor of the Stormans and the religious liberty of all Americans. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, overturned the ruling in 2015. Today the Supreme Court declined (five to three) to consider the Stormans’ case.

Questions of the Day

Why does Washington State government target individuals whose actions are motivated by religious beliefs while exempting numerous other businesses who object to stocking the same product for reasons related to profit?

How and when did fertility and pregnancy become diseases that require not only medication but also surgery? Is there a more anti-woman position than that?

Meet The Stormans 

Justice Alito’s Dissent

Following are the opening paragraphs of Justice Alito’s dissent.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

JUSTICE ALITO, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE THOMAS join, dissenting from the denial of certiorari.

This case is an ominous sign.

At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case worthy of our time. 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.

The Stormans family owns Ralph’s Thriftway, a local grocery store and pharmacy in Olympia, Washington. Devout Christians, the Stormans seek to run their business in accordance with their religious beliefs. Among those beliefs is a conviction that life begins at conception and that preventing the uterine implantation of a fertilized egg is tantamount to abortion. Consequently, in order to avoid complicity in what they believe to be the taking of a life, Ralph’s pharmacy does not stock emergency contraceptives, such as Plan B, that can “inhibit implantation” of a fertilized egg, 1 Supp. Excerpts of Record in Nos. 12–35221, 12–35223 (CA9), p. 1245 (SER). When customers come into the pharmacy with prescriptions for such drugs, Ralph’s employees inform them that the pharmacy does not carry those products, and they refer the customers to another nearby pharmacy that does. The drugs are stocked by more than 30 other pharmacies within five miles of Ralph’s. Stormans, Inc. v. Selecky, 854 F. Supp. 2d 925, 934 (WD Wash. 2012); see SER 1293. These pharmacies include an Albertson’s located 1.9 miles from Ralph’s and a Rite-Aid located 2.3 miles away.

— The beginning of Justice Alito’s dissent (order list for June 28, 2016)

While the Stormans face the loss of their pharmacy license, and the pharmacists face the loss of their jobs, the threat to all Americans is a loss of religious liberty. Please join me in prayer for the Storman family, the two pharmacists who joined the case, the communities they serve, as well as state lawmakers and our Supreme Court justices.

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