by Steven Ertelt
September 8, 2006
Springfield, IL (LifeNews.com) — A federal court has dismissed an attempt by pro-abortion Illinois Gov, Rod Blagojevich to dismiss a lawsuit against him filed by seven pharmacists who object to his executive order forcing all state pharmacists to dispense the morning after pill. The pharmacists say the order violate their first amendment religious freedoms.
The U.S. District Court in Springfield denied Blagojevich’s motion to dismiss the suit challenging the state’s year-old morning-after-pill mandate.
The American Center for Law and Justice, a pro-life law firm representing the pharmacists, hailed the decision as “a significant victory for the right of conscience” for those pharmacists who object to the morning after pill.
The pharmacists also argue that the state’s rule conflicts with the religious discrimination protections contained in Title VII, the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Five of the seven pharmacists have lost their jobs as a result of the conflict set in motion by last year’s mandate.
In a 28-page opinion, issued on Wednesday, Judge Jeanne E. Scott said that the pharmacists’ allegations, if proven at trial, “may establish that the object of the Rule [morning-after-pill mandate] is to target pharmacists, such as the Plaintiffs, who have religious objections to Emergency Contraceptives, for the purpose of forcing them either to compromise their religious beliefs or to leave the practice of pharmacy."
"Such an object is not religiously neutral," Judge Scott wrote.
The pharmacists’ suit was brought last year to challenge a rule issued in April 2005 by Governor Rod Blagojevich as an emergency regulation and made permanent in August 2005.
Since that time, at least three Illinois pharmacy owners have had charges filed against them by the state of Illinois for allegedly violating the regulation. At least five individual pharmacists have been fired or suspended by their employers for asserting their right to refuse to dispense the drugs on religious and moral grounds.
“This ruling is an important recognition of the right of conscience,” ACLJ senior counsel and lead attorney in the suit, said in a statement LifeNews.com obtained.
“The Court has recognized that the State may not target religious objectors for disparate treatment," Manion added. "Our clients have never sought to prevent anyone from gaining access to these drugs. They simply want the State to respect their right to refrain from participating in activity that violates their sincerely held beliefs.”
Judge Scott appeared to invite the State to amend the existing rule “to clarify its object and application . . . in a manner that would be consistent with individual constitutional rights.”
Manion welcomed this invitation saying, “This is something we have been suggesting from the start."
"There is no good reason why both sides of this controversial issue cannot be accommodated if the State is willing to recognize and respect the interests of all of its citizens – including objecting pharmacists," Manion said.
"Telling our clients, as the Governor has repeatedly done, that they should ‘find another profession’ is not the way to show respect for their rights," he added.