Disciplined Pharmacist Takes Religious Discrimination Case to Wis. High Court

A Wisconsin pharmacist who was punished with over $20,000 in court fines and restrictions on his license for refusing to hand a patient prescription that could be used for an abortion is appealing his case to the State Supreme Court, according to an announcement Wednesday.

Neil Noesen, a devout Roman Catholic, had reportedly told his employer K-Mart that it was against his religious beliefs to "aid, abet, encourage, refer, transfer, or participate in any way with something that I feel would be impairing the fertility of a human being."

Although K-Mart had a policy of accommodating the religious beliefs of employees with a conscientious objection to contraceptives, the state Pharmacy Examining Board reprimanded him with fees and restrictions on his license after he refused to offer or refer a patient oral contraceptives back in 2002.

Though Noesen claimed religious discrimination and challenged the matter in court, subsequent rulings by the State Circuit and Appellate Courts upheld the charges against Noesen, ruling that he "abandoned even the steps necessary to perform in a minimally competent manner under any standard of care," according to The Associated Press.

This time, however, Noesen has submitted his case to the State Supreme Court where his legal counsel, the Thomas Moore Society, believes Noesen has a strong case.

Paul Linton, Special Counsel of the Thomas More Society, described the case as a clear case of religious discrimination and was confident that the State Supreme Court would make a correct ruling.

"Mr. Noesen is being punished for refusing to compromise his beliefs. The Pharmacy Examining Board's action violates his rights of conscience, clearly protected by the Wisconsin Constitution (Article I, Section 18). We hope the Wisconsin Supreme Court will restore Mr. Noesen's right to express his deeply held beliefs. Being tolerant of what others believe is the definition of a free society," he said in a statement.

At present, there are only 9 states that have passed legislation protecting the moral objections of pharmacists who refuse to hand out contraceptives, while at least 17 other states have proposed similar legislation.

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