Yes, Christians have often criticized the courts. But as anti-religion laws proliferate, the courts may be a wall of defense. The same judge that struck down the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about gays has made a ruling that protects religious conscience:
A federal court in Tacoma, Washington, struck down a Washington law that requires pharmacists to dispense the morning-after pill even when doing so would violate their religious beliefs. The court held that the law violates the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.
“Today’s decision sends a very clear message: No individual can be forced out of her profession solely because of her religious beliefs,” said Luke Goodrich, Deputy National Litigation Director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The Becket Fund, together with the Seattle-based law firm of Ellis, Li & McKinstry, represents the plaintiffs in the case. “If the state allows pharmacies to refer patients elsewhere for economic, business, and convenience reasons, it has to allow them to refer for reasons of conscience,” added Mr. Goodrich.
The plaintiffs in the case are a family-owned pharmacy (Ralph’s Thriftway) and two individual pharmacists (Margo Thelen and Rhonda Mesler) who cannot in good conscience dispense Plan B (“the morning-after pill”) or ella (“the week-after pill”). These individuals believe that human life begins at the moment of fertilization, and that these drugs destroy human life because they can operate by destroying a fertilized egg, or embryo. Rather than dispensing those drugs, they refer patients to one of dozens of nearby pharmacies that stock and dispense them.
In 2007, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy passed new regulations making it illegal to refer patients to neighboring pharmacies for reasons of conscience, despite allowing them to refer patients elsewhere for a wide variety of business, economic, or convenience reasons. Because of the regulations, Margo Thelen lost her job; Rhonda Mesler was told she would have to transfer to another state; and Kevin Stormans, the owner of Ralph’s Thriftway, faced repeated investigations and threats of punishment from the State Board of Pharmacy.
“The Board of Pharmacy’s 2007 rules are not neutral, and they are not generally applicable,” the Court explained. “They were designed instead to force religious objectors to dispense Plan B, and they sought to do so despite the fact that refusals to deliver for all sorts of secular reasons were permitted.”
Maybe this will become a legal precedent when the Obamacare insurance mandate ends up in court.