Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is concerned for the religious freedom of the United States.
Justice Alito issued a statement following the Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday to turn down a case involving pharmacists who wish not to supply abortifacients at their pharmacy. Justice Alito, along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas (all of whom voted against the recent ruling to overturn Texas’ HB 2 law), penned a respectful dissent to the court’s decision.
The case involved the family-owned business of Ralph’s Thriftway in Olympia, Wa. The owners are devout Christians who believe abortion in any form is taking a life, and therefore did not want to supply abortifacients in the pharmacy attached to their grocery store. As Justice Alito explains in his statement, the owners are not causing a problem for the town since the next closest pharmacy carries the drugs and is located only 2.3 miles from their store. This is not an uncommon practice; pharmacies regularly refer patients to different locations when they are out of stock or if they don’t regularly carry a particular drug.
However, in 2007 the Washington State Board of Pharmacy issued rules saying that pharmacies like Ralph’s must carry and sell abortifacients like the Plan B pill. As Alito’s response explains, “Ralph’s, joined by two pharmacists with similar beliefs who work at other pharmacies, contends that the regulations target religiously motivated conduct for disfavored treatment and thereby ‘suppress religious belief or practice’ in violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.”
The clincher comes when you find out the District Court ruled in agreement with Ralph’s and the pharmacists, and the State Board of Pharmacy was asked to re-draft their rules. This is when the Governor of Washington got involved, practically strong-arming the Board into including a clause in the rules that pharmacists could not refer patients to another pharmacy over religious or moral grounds. To make a long and legally tedious story short, the case went all the way to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and still ruled against Ralph’s and the pharmacists. Hence the appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court deemed the case not worth their time, and therefore the 9th Circuit’s decision stands and Ralph’s and the pharmacists will indeed be required to carry and sell abortifacients.
In his response, Justice Alito called the decision “an ominous sign.” Further, he says, “If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.”
Justice Alito’s words should concern us, as he is in a position to uphold the law in order to maintain our freedoms as a nation.