by Steven Ertelt
December 8, 2005
St. Louis, MO (LifeNews.com) — Four Walgreens pharmacists who were fired from their jobs in southern Illinois have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying they were discriminated against because of their religious views on dispensing the morning after pill.
The pharmacists said they were "effectively fired" from their jobs when Walgreens put them on unpaid leave last week because they wouldn’t follow a directive from Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, mandating that all pharmacists in the state fill all prescriptions for legal drugs.
That order, which has been challenged in court, would force pharmacists to dispense the Plan B drugs, which can sometimes cause an abortion.
The American Center for Law and Justice, a pro-life law firm, filed the complaint on the pharmacists’ behalf.
"Since the pharmacists believe that human life begins at conception, they conclude that dispensing such drugs would require them to participate in the moral equivalent of abortion," ACLJ said in a statement.
John Menges, who worked at a Walgreens store in Collinsville, told AP, "I knew when these drugs came out I would never be able to dispense them."
Walgreens said it would help the pharmacists obtain a Missouri pharmacy license and transfer them to a drugstore across the border in St. Louis, but Menges said over the weekend he’s received no such help.
Tiffani Bruce, a spokeswoman for Walgreens, which is based in Illinois, cited the April mandate from Blagojevich as the reason for the firings.
"It is strictly stated in state law that pharmacists must fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptions," Bruce told AP. "Anyone who takes issue with this law needs to address it with the state or the governor."
Bruce also claims Menges and the other pharmacists have failed to take the company up on its Missouri employment offer. Menges said he would have to take a pay cut while he obtained his Missouri license and Walgreens wouldn’t promise him a store location close to his Illinois home.
Three of the pharmacists, Menges, Richard Quayle and Carol Muzzarelli, filed the complaint. A fourth has returned to work for Walgreens after agreeing to follow the governor’s mandate.
Frank Manion, an ACLJ attorney, said a lawsuit was likely if the complaint yields no results and Walgreens fails to reinstate the pharmacists.
He said the action taken in this case "does not bode well for other pharmacists across the country who don’t want to be compelled to participate in something that doesn’t fall within their religious beliefs," Manion said. "It’s important that a stand be taken here."
The local Catholic Diocese of Belleville has called for a Walgreens boycott because of its actions.
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