Jun 28, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court rightly decided not to hear a Washington state pharmacy’s claim that it has a “religious freedom” right to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says.

In an order issued today, the high court declined to hear the case of Stormans, Inc. v. Wiesman.

“A pharmacist’s personal religious beliefs must not be allowed to get between a patient and her doctor,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “The Supreme Court did the right thing by refusing to hear this case.”

A year ago, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals upheld Washington state regulations adopted in 2007 requiring pharmacies to fill all valid prescriptions provided by doctors.  Those rules also permit individual pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription as long as a colleague will do so instead. Pharmacies, however, may not completely refuse to dispense certain drugs. The Stormans family, who owns Ralph’s Thriftway pharmacy in Olympia, claimed that provision violated its religious freedom rights. The family succeeded in a federal trial court in 2012, but the state appealed, arguing that it had a rational basis for requiring pharmacies to stock emergency contraception and other birth control pills.

Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case.

“The Free-Exercise Clause of the First Amendment should [not] be used as a sword to impose the beliefs of one faith upon those who do not share the faith,” the brief said. “That curtails religious freedom instead of advancing it.”