(Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)
The Thomas More Society announced on Wednesday that it has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Tennessee pharmacist who was fired in 2013 by Walgreens for refusing to dispense the "Plan B" morning-after pill due to religious reasons.
"Dr. Hall's right to live according to his religious beliefs, including in his workplace, is protected both under the Federal Civil Rights Act and the Tennessee State Constitution," said Larry Crain, co-counsel with the law group. "Americans have the right to live according to their sincerely held religious beliefs and not be forced to participate in actions that they deeply and sincerely believe are morally wrong."
The lawsuit, filed alongside attorney Larry Crain, of Crain, Schuette & Associates, states that Pharmacist Dr. Philip Hall had been employed for six years at a Walgreens store in Jamestown, Tenn., and followed a protocol that allowed him to ask another pharmacist to dispense abortion-inducing drugs like Plan B to customers. Following the implementations of new FDA rules in August 2013, which required Plan B to be sold over-the-counter, Hall, a Baptist, asked his superiors to respect his religious objections to dispensing abortifacients.
After he affirmed that he could not dispense such drugs, he was fired from his job one month later.
The lawsuit claims wrongful termination of employment because of Hall's refusal to sell the Plan B drug "based on his conviction that to do so would be sinful and repugnant to his sincerely held religious beliefs."
Conservative groups have spoken out against dropping restrictions to the morning-after pill, and criticized the Obama administration for failing to stop the selling of emergency contraception to young girls without a prescription.
"I sincerely fear for the future health and wellness of women and children, as doctors, parents, and pharmacists are eliminated from this very serious conversation about sexual activity, pregnancy, fertility, and overall health," said Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, in a statement in June 2013.
As for the lawsuit, Hall said that he chose to file the complaint to repair the losses he has suffered as a consequence of losing his job, including incurring thousands of dollars in medical bills because of lost health insurance, but also to prevent other pharmacists from being forced to choose between their jobs and their consciences.
"It is illegal for Walgreens to attempt to force employees like Dr. Hall to dispense certain drugs in violation of their religious and moral beliefs," added Jocelyn Floyd, attorney with the Thomas More Society, "especially after six years of settled store practices showed that Walgreens could reasonably accommodate Dr. Hall's religious beliefs with no difficulties."