Supreme Court Justice Alito: ‘Those Who Value Religious Freedom Have Cause for Great Concern’

Kevin and Greg Storman, owners of Ralph's Thriftway in Olympia, Wash., end their long legal battle over a state law that forces them to provide Plan B despite their Christian beliefs.

By Kelsey Bolar Published on June 29, 2016

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.

Alito was joined in his dissent by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Clarence Thomas, falling one justice short of the four needed for the court to accept a case.

The case involves the Storman family, owners of Ralph’s Thriftway, a small, family-run grocery store and pharmacy in Olympia, Wash. In 2007, after Washington state passed a law that requires all pharmacies to dispense “all lawfully prescribed drugs or devices” in a timely manner to all customers, the Stormans found themselves in the cultural crosshairs.

Because of their Christian belief that life begins at conception, the Stormans objected to dispensing drugs such as Plan B that they believe aid in the destruction of human life.

Kevin and Greg Storman took over the family business from their grandfather, Ralph Storman, who started the company in 1944.

 

Under the state law, denying Plan B could result in the Stormans losing their pharmacy license.

The Stormans then entered a long legal battle. In February 2012, a federal court struck down the law as unconstitutional. The court found “abundant evidence” that the law was designed to force religious pharmacists and pharmacy owners to violate their faith.

But last July, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, upholding the law mandating pharmacists to dispense legal drugs and devices. The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case today allows the 9th Circuit’s ruling — and the law — to stand.

If a customer at Ralph’s Thriftway requests a drug such as Plan B, employees refer customers to other local pharmacies that do carry the drug. According to court documents, over 30 pharmacies and drug stores within five miles of Ralph’s carry Plan B, and none of Ralph’s customers has ever been denied timely access to Plan B or other emergency contraceptives.

Alito, in his dissent, suggested the 2007 law, which is unique to Washington state, was designed specifically to target Christian believers.

“There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose,” Alito wrote, adding:

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 9th Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this court does not deem the case worthy of our time.

Kristen Waggoner, a senior attorney at Alliance Defending Freedom who has defended the Stormans for a decade, expressed disappointment that the high court opted not to take the case.

“All Americans should be free to peacefully live and work consistent with their faith without fear of unjust punishment, and no one should be forced to participate in the taking of human life,” Waggoner said in a prepared statement. “We had hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would take this opportunity to reaffirm these long-held principles.”

The Daily Signal last week interviewed Greg Storman about why the family-run pharmacy objects to dispensing Plan B.

“Our company revolves around faith, family, and community,” Storman said. “We serve every customer that comes to our pharmacy, but where we draw the line in the sand is we will not sell any drug that takes a human life, and we will not sell any drug that results in an abortion.”

While the Stormans were the public face of this case, two other pharmacists facing a similar dilemma were a part of the challenge.

Margo Thelen, another pharmacist in Washington state, also objected to being forced to dispense emergency contraceptives because of her religious beliefs.

 

Margo Thelen is one of them. Earlier this year, during an interview with The Daily Signal, Thelen said she would not dispense Plan B even if it meant losing her pharmacist’s license. Now, her future is unclear.

In his 15-page dissent, Alito confronted her dilemma head-on: “Violate your sincerely held religious beliefs or get out of the pharmacy business.”

 

Copyright 2016 The Daily Signal

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  • Gary

    There will be a lot more of this. There are lots of people who hate Christians. They are using the laws to try to harm Christians.

    • StillBetter&Better

      Still a scared little man, huh Gary?

      • Gary

        Not scared of you. But I do have some fear of the government. They have jails and bullets, and I don’t trust them to use either properly.

        • StillBetter&Better

          You’re a scared, pitiful, lonely little man… How ’bout that Mississippi ruling, huh? Life just keeps getting better and better!

          • Gary

            Life is short. You won’t like what comes next.

          • StillBetter&Better

            So says the myth.

          • Gary

            You wish it was a myth.

          • StillBetter&Better

            No, not a wish… simple fact. Odin told me so…

  • Dean Bruckner

    Murderous thugs with a runaway conscience will do whatever it takes to remove any reminder of the terrible evil laugh n which they are participated. If we do not join them in murder, they will eventually murder us.

  • Ryan

    The ideology behind the attacks on the rights of Christians and conservatives in the U.S. was written by Marx and Engels. It is a very ad thing that most socialists today are young enough to not know their ideology is responsible for nearly as many deaths as Islam.

  • Wayne Cook

    Inhospitable Sodom and Gommorah arise from the ancient ashes.

    • Gal 5:22-23

      Are you referring to the pharmacy? They are the one refusing to sell something they have to a customer who needs it.

      Be like one refusing to sell medication to someone with Hansen’s disease because they think lepers are rightfully cursed by God.

  • “Violate your sincerely held religious beliefs or get out of the pharmacy business.”

    That is Revelation 13:17 in a nutshell.

  • Gary

    If you own a convenience store, but you don’t sell beer, are you forcing your religion on beer drinkers? Or, if you don’t sell lottery tickets, are you forcing your religion on gamblers? Or, if you don’t sell tobacco products, are you forcing your religion on smokers?

    • imamazed

      Government dictates that you HAVE to sell Plan B even though it will take a life, and yet the feds want to make it so some businesses CAN’T sell guns because they take lives. Isn’t that the government forcing their “religion” on all Americans?

      • Gal 5:22-23

        you are mistaken, Plan B is just birth control medication the business already does sell for the same purpose, to prevent conception. Simple biology – sperm can be viable for 3 days the ‘egg’ only one. it is a race to prevent ovulation during the time the sperm might still be hanging around with a high dose of birth control. if conception has already occurred Plan B doesn’t stop gestation.

        That is why a referral of any kind is not in the best interest of the customer and since the pharmacy already sells the drug refusing a customer – who has a constitutional right to NOT share this mistaken religious belief – is making the customer act as if they shared it.

        The pharmacy has no right to refuse a customer a highly time dependent dose of medication they do have in stock because they don’t like the legal usage the customer has for it. The customer most certainly has a right to not share anyone’s at the businesses beliefs and still buy the products they have for sale as the law requires.

        The reason we license pharmacies is to protect the rights of the customers to the best medical care.

        as I recall if the pharmacy just stopped selling contraceptives to anyone they would be compliant with the law – they are just not willing to take that step.

  • Brad F

    I like Alito.
    If only we had 5 Alitos (or 5 Scalias) on the Court, mercy, what a difference. That loathsome faux-Christian Anthony Kennedy will have to answer to Almighty God for that atrocious ruling a year ago.

    • Uh … this isn’t a theocracy. The U.S. Constitution calls the shots, not the Bible. The justices follow the law, regardless of what the Bible says (or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work).

      • Brad F

        Whatever you say, Granny. (I was brought up to humor the elderly.)

        Go take your laxative, maybe you’ll get lucky this year.

        • Ouch! I knew my argument had a gaping hole; I just was counting on no one finding it. I didn’t count on anyone using evidence to refute me.

          I’ll be wary of your savage rhetoric in the future.

  • teton99

    1930’s Germany….

    • Gal 5:22-23

      If by that you mean businesses religiously discriminating against customers I agree.

      • teton99

        No I mean Militant Homosexuals who can’t accept religious people not wanting to take part in any ceremony secular or otherwise that is contrary to scripture. That is all that is being refused, none of the business refuse to service homosexuals as individual persons, unless the business is completely orientated to weddings. But you just keep obfuscating just so you can persecute Christians. We live in a pluralistic society and not everyone is going to agree and there are plenty of other venues to chose from. Do you think homosexual events would allow Christian groups in? Not for a second!

  • Religious freedom? You’re free to have whatever beliefs you want—nutty or sensible—just don’t pretend that you have the right to impose those on others.

    You want to be a pharmacist? That’s great, but follow the law. You don’t get to pick and choose who gets what medicine.

    • Gary

      If a pharmacist chooses not to stock the drug in question, does that mean they are trying to impose their religion on others?

      • If I’m a Christian Scientist pharmacist, and I pick and choose my pharmacopeia based on my religion, I might reject those medicines that save lives because prayer is the proper route to good health.

        “You want insulin?” I’d say. “Sorry, pal. Not in stock … Next!”

        Yeah, that’s imposing my religion.

        • Mark_Trail

          Zyklon B

  • Mark_Trail

    Currently, scientists are not allowed to recognize the unique and unrepeatable DNA that is conceived when the sperm and the egg unite. Loss of status and income would be the result. So, naturally, most scientists say that it’s up to the woman to decide in every case whether the conceptus is a person with rights or if the conceptus is worthy of destruction at her choosing. Religious nut cases need to get in line with scientists nowadays who leave it up to the woman to demand drugs that may or may not kill the conceptus, depending on belief.

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