Tag: free exercise

Richard Epstein looks at a recent Supreme Court ruling that could have major implications for when and how religious institutions can access public money.

SCOTUS: No Free Exercise of Religion Allowed in Washington State


shutterstock_171501734There was a lot of noise this week about how the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a Texas law that imposed regulations on abortion clinics, but there was little notice of a more important ruling. In Stormans v. Weisman, the Supreme Court declined (5 – 3) to hear a petition on a Ninth Circuit case out of Washington State that affirmed a state law requiring all pharmacies to stock and dispense the “Plan B” pill, which can act either as an emergency contraceptive or an abortifacient.

The Stormans own Ralph’s Thriftway, a grocery store/pharmacy with two locations a couple of miles apart in Olympia, Washington. Despite the Ralph’s employees’ willingness to refer customers to any of the 30 other nearby pharmacies that stock the drug, Washington State is determined that traditionalist Christians must not be allowed to run a pharmacy that does not stock the pill. That is unfortunate, because the Washington State law is a clear violation of the Stormans’ First Amendment right to the free exercise of their religion. Writing for the dissenters (and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas), Justice Samuel Alito writes:

This case is an ominous sign. At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescrip- tion medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case wor- thy of our time. 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.

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Sweet Cakes by Melissa was a bakery in Gresham, Oregon.  They became famous because they declined to provide the wedding cake for a lesbian wedding.  The bakery was punished severely for this.  Nearly two years after the shop was closed, a very large fine was recently pronounced by the State of Oregon.  I am posting […]

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Do Owners of a Corporation Waive Their Free Exercise Right? Hobby Lobby and the Right — and Duty — of Conscience


The United States Government suggests that, by adopting the corporate form, the Green family — owners of Hobby Lobby — waived their rights of conscience. The Government betrays a deep misunderstanding of its subject.

Conscience insists on rights, which our Constitution affords. Those rights are not guaranteed for any low purpose, to do merely as we please. Conscience connects us with the divine as each finds it. And through that connection, it imposes duties. What is commonly called the “right” of conscience, then, is merely the space to discharge those duties. Because those duties are undeniable, the corresponding rights are unalienable. As James Madison said in his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, the right of conscience “is unalienable…because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator.”