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Missouri Family E-News

October 9, 2012

Illinois Court Upholds Pharmacy Conscience Rights



An Illinois state appeals court has ruled that pharmacy owners cannot be compelled to stock and sell drugs that violate their religious beliefs.


The appeals court upheld a lower court injunction prohibiting enforcement of a state regulation governing the availability of so-called "emergency contraceptives."


Disgraced Illinois former Governor Rod Blagojevich had issued an unlawful administrative rule in 2005 requiring that all pharmacies stock and dispense Plan B, the so-called "morning after pill."


Two pharmacy owners, Luke Vander Bleek and Glenn Kosirog, challenged the Governor's edict, claiming that it violated their rights under the state's Health Care Conscience Rights Act and Religious Freedom Restoration Act.


"This decision is a great victory for religious freedom," says Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberties.  "The government shouldn't kick business owners out of the market because it dislikes their religious beliefs."


"Luke and Glenn are competent and caring professionals who have been diligently serving the public for decades,"  Rienzi comments.  "In a pluralistic society that honors diversity there ought to be room for people like our clients to practice their profession without the threat of government sanctions."


The appeals court affirmed the conclusion of a state circuit court that Illinois law "protects the pharmacist's decision not to dispense emergency contraceptives due to their conscience."                                       

New Delaware Law May Ban Corporal Punishment

Delaware Governor Jack Markell has signed a new law that some say will criminalize the spanking of children in that state.  The Delaware Legislature recently passed the new law which amends state statutes dealing with child abuse.

Under the changes, any person who intentionally causes "pain" to a child under 18 years of age would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.  Any person who causes "pain" to a child under three years of age would be guilty of a class G felony.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) says that the new law makes Delaware the first state in the nation to effectively ban corporal punishment.

"This law is a violation of the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, including the long-recognized right to administer reasonable corporal discipline," says Dee Black, senior counsel for HSLDA. 

While supporters of the new law insist that it does not ban parental spanking of their children, a national group that supports spanking bans thinks otherwise.  The group commended Delaware state officials for being the first state in the nation to legislate against "hitting" the home."

The changes to the child abuse law were pushed by Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden.

KTLLC Communications,
St. Louis Business to Appeal Ruling on Abortion Drug Mandate

A St. Louis business owner will appeal a federal court decision that will require his company to comply with the Obama Administration's contraceptive and abortion drug mandate.  Attorneys for Frank O'Brien say they will appeal the adverse ruling to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson dismissed the lawsuit filed by O'Brien and his company O'Brien Industries.  O'Brien argued that the contraceptive mandate violates his First Amendment right as a business owner to the free exercise of his religion.

Under the contraceptive and abortion drug mandate, all health insurance plans issued in the United States must include coverage of any and all "contraceptives" approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  The federal edict requires coverage without co-pays of drugs and devices that function as abortifacients, such as Ella, Plan B, and intrauterine devices.

O'Brien is a devoted Catholic, and he contends that the mandate compels him to underwrite coverage of drugs that violate core religious doctrines of his faith under the threat of punitive fines.  "We face a choice between complying with these requirements in violation of our religious beliefs, or paying ruinous fines that would have a crippling impact on our ability to survive economically," the lawsuit reads.

Judge Jackson ruled in remarkably dishonest fashion that the contraceptive mandate did not impose a "substantial burden on [O'Brien's] religious exercise."  She stated that the federal edict only required "indirect" financial support of practices O'Brien found objectionable, and that he and his employees were free to refrain from using contraceptives.

The judge's reasoning ignores the fact that O'Brien and his business are still going to have to pay for the availability of abortifacient drugs and contraceptives in very direct financial terms.  If they fail to comply with the contraceptive dictate, they will have to pay very direct financial penalties of $100 per day per employee.
O'Brien Industries employs 87 people, so the contraceptive mandate penalty would amount to $8,700 per day, or nearly $3.2 million on an annual basis.

Frank O'Brien is a classic example of many business owners who view their companies as extensions of their religious values and beliefs.  The corporation's website states firmly that "our conduct is guided by the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments."  A statue of the Sacred Heart commands a prominent place in the company's lobby.  O'Brien Industries also operates a charitable fund called the St. Nicholas Fund.

"The court saw no difference between paying the salary of an employee who might use that salary to go out and buy things the boss objects to, and having the boss buy the objectionable things directly and hand them to the employee," says Francis Manion of the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing O'Brien Industries in the case.

"This is a legally and logically flawed opinion," Manion adds, "and we are confident that the Court of Appeals will reverse the decision of the district court.  It defies logic, common sense, and applicable law."

O'Brien Industries is one of about 80 religious institutions, organizations, and businesses that have filed legal challenges to the contraceptive and abortion drug mandate issued by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  The latest to do so is Tyndale House Publishers, a large Christian publishing house that prints and produces Bibles and other religious materials.

"Tyndale and its owners are Christians who are committed to Biblical principles, including the belief that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God from the moment of their conception," the lawsuit asserts.  "The regulatory mandate...forces Tyndale to provide and pay for drugs and devices that its owners believe can cause the death of human beings created in the image and likeness of God."

"Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the Book that they publish," says Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending  Freedom, which is representing Tyndale House in the litigation.

"To say that a Bible publisher is not religious is patently absurd," Bowman continues.  "Federal government bureaucrats are not qualified to decide what faith is, who the faithful are, and where and how that faith may be lived out.  Obamacare demands that religious employers choose between two poison pills:  either desert your faith by complying, or resist and be punished."

Paul Rondeau, executive director of American Life League, is concerned about where the actions of the Obama Adminstration to trample religious liberties will  lead.  "History tragically teaches us that if our government can abolish one constitutional right, then all constitutional rights are put in jeopardy."

"This path sets a dangerous precedent that First Amendment rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press and the rights to assemble and petition the government may be just as easily curtailed in the future.  We call on all citizens to tell their elected representatives that this erosion of rights must not stand."

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