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Federal Court blocks states’ requests to review video in Planned Parenthood case

Attorneys General from several states are filing an amicus brief in the Northern California District Court next week during the initial injunction hearing, aimed at unsealing over 500 hours of video footage for state review.

The National Abortion Federation v. Center for Medical Progress case has been in dispute since CMP first released footage of their findings at Planned Parenthood clinics across America. Several doctors representing Planned Parenthood appeared to admit to being involved in a scheme that purportedly bought and sold parts of aborted fetal specimens. The sale of human body parts is illegal under federal law.

This renewed effort by states comes after the District Court issued a restraining order that barred the undercover footage obtained by the Center for Medical Progress from being released publicly. Several states including Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, and Oklahoma, have requested access the sealed tapes to see if any unlawful activity took place in their respective states. To this point, the Court has been unwilling to facilitate their requests, only allowing footage to be released that has been reviewed and approved by the Plaintiff.

While many media outlets have already concluded that the sealed footage is “discredited,” some have questioned why the Federal Court system and the NAF are so unwilling to allow law enforcement officials at the state level to review the remaining 500 hours of footage.

FPIW is urging Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson to ensure that no laws were broken in Washington State. You can sign our petition to Attorney General Bob Ferguson at this link.  

Ninth Circuit Court: WA Can Force Pharmacists to Sell Plan B

In the latest development in a case that has lasted nearly a decade, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that Washington State can force a pharmacy to sell Plan B despite their moral objections to doing so.

Plan B is a drug many object to because they believe it causes an early state abortion.

In 2007, the Washington State Board of Health created new rules stating that pharmacies must stock and sell Plan B. However, Ralph’s Thriftway challenged the rule and a judge ruled that the First Amendment protected their right to refer customers rather than sell a drug they objected to on moral grounds.

In their ruling yesterday, the Court of Appeals overturned that decision.

Kevin Stormans, President of Stormans Inc, which owns Ralph’s Thriftway, pointed out the irrationality of this decision in light of the general right pharmacists have to give referrals generally. “The state allows pharmacies to refer for all kinds of reasons. In practice, it only bans religiously motivated referrals.”

Mr. Stormans continued, “With 33 pharmacies stocking the drug within five miles of our store, it is extremely disappointing that the court and the state demand that we violate our conscience or lose our family business.”

Kristen Waggoner, lead counsel in the case and Senior Vice President of Legal Services at the Alliance Defending Freedom, noted that, “This case will affect many facilities within the state, including Catholic hospitals and pharmacies, which have made clear they will not dispense these drugs.”

Washington’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, who is also suing Arlene’s Flowers because she declined to decorate for a same-sex wedding, called the decision “a major victory for the people of Washington.”

Luke Goodrich, an Attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which helped defend the pharmacists, noted that “no patient has ever been denied timely access to any drug.”

But that didn’t matter.

The Court of Appeals said it was important for states to have the power to force pharmacists to violate their beliefs because, “facilitated referrals could lead to feelings of shame in the patient that could dissuade her from obtaining emergency contraception altogether.”

The Oregon Labor Commission similarly cited hurt feelings to justify a $135,000 fine against a bakery that did not want to bake a same-sex wedding cake. In addition, Justice Kennedy’s decision redefining marriage similarly argued that acknowledging the difference between heterosexual and homosexual relationships condemns people to “live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.”

While traditionally the job of courts has been to interpret the law, the fact that the courts have appointed themselves guardians of the people’s feelings can only be a bad thing for freedom.

Attorneys for Ralph’s Thriftway have pledged to appeal the ruling. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the most frequently overturned.

What can you do in response to this decision?

  1. Contact your legislator and ask them to support legislation that allows Washingtonians to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of unreasonable government intrusion. You can reach them at the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or email them by clicking here.
  2. If you disagree with Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s belief that this decision is “a major victory for the people of Washington”, call him at 360-753-6200 and let him know.
  3. Forward this email to someone who shares your concern about the rapid loss of liberty and encourage them to do the same. We are the solution to our problems.

Remember, in politics silence is consent. Always be respectful, but don’t be silent.

This story has been edited from its original version to correctly identify the lead counsel in the case. 7/24/15 11:11 am

WA Pharmacy, Pharmacists Will Appeal 9th Cir. Ruling that Forces Them to Violate Their Beliefs

 ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM COMMENT
July 23, 2015 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT ADF MEDIA RELATIONS: (480) 444-0020 or 
www.adfmedia.org/home/contact

 

The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Vice President of Legal Services Kristen Waggoner regarding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s decision Thursday in Stormans v. Wiesman to uphold Washington Board of Pharmacy rules that force pharmacists to dispense drugs contrary to their conscience instead of allowing them to refer customers to other pharmacists as they are allowed to do in all 49 other states:

“No one should be forced to choose between their religious convictions and their family businesses and livelihoods, particularly when the state allows referrals for just about any other reason. The premier medical and pharmaceutical associations all support the right of a provider to refer patients, and all other states allow such referrals. This decision will affect many facilities within the state, including Catholic hospitals and pharmacies, which have made clear they will not dispense these drugs. As the district court noted, drugs like Plan B and ella are widely accessible within the state. In fact, no woman anywhere in Washington has been denied timely access to these drugs for religious reasons. We will appeal this ruling.”

The following quote may be attributed to Stormans, Inc., President Kevin Stormans regarding the 9th Circuit’s decision:

“The state allows pharmacies to refer for all kinds of reasons. In practice, it only bans religiously motivated referrals. With 33 pharmacies stocking the drug within five miles of our store, it is extremely disappointing that the court and the state demand that we violate our conscience or lose our family business. All we are asking is to be able to live out the beliefs that we hold, as Americans have always been able to do, and to be able to refer patients for religious reasons, as the medical and pharmaceutical associations overwhelmingly recommend.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building,
non-profit legal organization that advocates for the
right of people to freely live out their faith.

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Three Reasons It Isn’t Over

The Supreme Court has spoken.

It wasn’t a surprise, but it was disappointing. In a 5-4 decision, the Court created an oven-fresh, new right to marry someone of the same gender.  The Court provided no limiting principle that would prevent their logic from extending to other kinds of relationships whose profession of love is not currently acknowledged with a marriage license.

The decision was a setback for the rule of law.

The Constitution says as much about marriage as it does about the Seahawks.  When the Constitution is silent on an issue, then that issue should be resolved by the legislative branch of government.  The states (or Congress) should have been allowed to continue wrestling with this issue and reaching a resolution based on the input of the people through their elected representatives.

But as it turns out, the voices of 51 million people from thirty-one states who voted for laws defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman were overruled by five, unelected lawyers in Washington, DC.

For a number of people, the response to the Court’s decision was relief.  Sentiments like, “At least it’s over!!” and “Can we please stop talking about gay marriage now?”

Unfortunately, the conflict between the sexual revolution and the nation’s faith-based people and institutions may only intensify in the coming months and years.  Here’s why.

1. The LGBT political leadership doesn’t want to coexist:  An entire industry was built to accomplish what happened on Friday.  That industry is not going to suddenly declare itself obsolete. You don’t raise money by declaring victory. Now that “full equality under the law” has been accomplished, there will be another crisis requiring their attention, and another, and another…

2. Some people are still free to disagree: The goal of the LGBT political movement has always been to eradicate the belief that homosexuality and heterosexuality are different.  That is why they promote policies that allow someone to decline to decorate a cake critical of same-sex “marriage,” but not decline to decorate a cake supportive of it.  The goal is to create a government that punishes beliefs about homosexuality they disagree with. Therefore, as long as you have the freedom to run your business, non-profit, university, school, or church according to your beliefs, their job is not done.

3. Now it’s easier to call you a racist, legally speaking:  The 14th Amendment was written to stop the government from treating people differently because of their race. Now that the Supreme Court has discovered a new right to marry someone of the same gender in the 14th amendment, it’s easier to argue that those who don’t celebrate homosexuality are the same as racists. As a result, the ability to remove tax-exempt status, cut off federal funding to religious universities, and otherwise marginalize people who believe in natural marriage became easier.

Marriage has been redefined most recently, but it may not be the last word to be redefined.

Soon, “religious freedom” may mean only the freedom to believe what you want in your head and maybe talk about it at church or at home. You may need a license though. In the same way, “civil rights” may soon be redefined so that a person can be forced to celebrate an event they disagree with but not free to say something “offensive”.  After all, that’s “hate speech.”

The world is changing quickly, but the truth about marriage remains.

And the need for courage only grows.

So you stayed out of the debate about marriage because you didn’t feel like telling someone else how to live their life.  Great.

But what will you do when they start telling you how to live yours?

Will you surrender all your freedom in an effort to avoid being misunderstood? Let’s hope not.

But we’re going to find out, because, despite what we all wish, this is far from over.

PRESS RELEASE: SCOTUS Takes Power from the People — Redefines Marriage

OLYMPIA, WA – Today, under the case filed Obergefell vs. Hodges, the Supreme Court of the United States imposed its will on the people when they mandated that all states re-define marriage directly and make their own marriage ruling.

Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW) Executive Director Joseph Backholm made the following comments about the decision: 

“The freedom to democratically address the most pressing social issues of the day is the heart of liberty. Today, the Court stripped the people of that freedom. Government should not impose their beliefs on the people.

“Democracy matters and the vote of the people matters. The Court overrode the will of tens of millions of Americans in 31 states who successfully voted to preserve the millennia-old definition of marriage.”

Backholm also expressed concern about how this issue will affect religious liberty in America:

“People of faith should be able to live out their beliefs in the public square without being silenced to the four walls of their homes and churches. This decision poses a tremendous threat to religious liberties and will have future ramifications on schools, churches, non-profits, and private businesses.

“Today’s decision offers an opportunity to work together to advocate for strong marriage policy in the states and to ensure that the Government never penalizes a citizen or an institution who believes that marriage is the union between one man and one woman” concluded Backholm.

Judge Rules Against Arlene’s Flowers

In a decision that has significant implications for business owners who hold the historic view on issues of marriage and sexuality, a Benton County Superior Court Judge ruled yesterday that it is illegal to refer business for same-sex ceremonies if you are willing to provide business for any wedding.

Judge Alex Eckstrom ruled that Arlene’s Flowers and its owner, Barronelle Stutzman, violated Washington State’s non-discrimination law when she declined to provide floral services for a long-time customer.

As a result, both the business and personal assets of Barronelle Stutzman are at risk of state seizure.

In his ruling, the judge quickly dismissed the idea that the First Amendment’s guarantee to the free exercise of religion protected Arlene’s Flowers.

In support of his conclusion that the non-discrimination law trumps whatever protections the First Amendment might have once offered, he favorably cited the recent New Mexico Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled that being forced to take pictures of a same-sex commitment ceremony was the “price of citizenship.”

The judge also rejected the argument that the Washington State Constitution’s conscience protections offered any relief.

The State Constitution says that “[a]bsolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship, shall be guaranteed to every individual….”

However, the judge concluded that the state could force businesses to choose between their faith and business because the state can restrict religious practices “inconsistent with the peace and safety of the state.”

Apparently, declining to be part of a same-sex wedding is now “inconsistent with the peace and safety of the state.”

While the founders came to this country to flee religious oppression, the court has essentially said that anyone who holds to the historical understanding of marriage and sexuality may not be in the wedding industry.

A couple points to keep in mind with all of this.

Arlene’s Flowers did not and does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. She happily serves people who identify as gay, including the customers involved in this incident for nine years.

This was an event that she did not want to be part of.

Opponents of conscience rights argue that if she’s allowed not to be part of a same-sex ceremony that “White’s Only” signs will start appearing in store windows throughout the land.

Here’s the difference.

She objected to the service being requested, not the person requesting the service.

It’s a big difference.

It’s the difference between having a “White’s Only” sign in your business and deciding not to print material for the Black Panthers because you don’t like what they’re about.

One is overt bigotry, the other is simply the ability to be yourself.

Yesterday’s decision is not the end of the story for Arlene’s Flowers. This decision will likely be appealed, and many subsequent decisions may be appealed as well. It could be years before there is a final resolution to this dispute.

However, the need for people to stand alongside Barronelle Stutzman and demonstrate to our government that she is not alone is critical.

Please call your legislators now at 1-800-562-6000 and tell them to act to protect religious freedom. You can also email them by clicking here. Have your friends do the same.

The legislature can solve this problem quickly if they are compelled to.

You can also call Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who filed this lawsuit at 360-753-6200.

Please be respectful in all your comments, but please be heard.

Some are passionately committed to creating a country in which diversity has been thrown on the ash heap of history.

Unless our commitment to preserving religious freedom and conscience rights exceeds their commitment to destroying them, we’ll lose. Just like Barronelle Stutzman did yesterday.