Humanists Join Legal Brief in Pharmacist Controversy
March 13, 2008
The Appignani Humanist Legal Center (AHLC), the legal arm of the American Humanist Association (AHA), participated Wednesday as a sign-on to a "friend of the court" brief prepared by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The brief was submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and sets forth the legal opinion that Washington State has the right to require pharmacists to fill doctors’ prescriptions. The brief argues that two Washington State Board of Pharmacy regulations, which require pharmacies to dispense all medications in a timely manner, don't impinge upon the religious freedom rights of pharmacists and should therefore be upheld.
The brief in the case of Stormans, Inc. v. Selecky asks the appeals court to kick the decision back to the district court with instructions to use a different standard for reviewing the regulations.
“Pharmacists know what they’re getting into when they take the job,” commented Bob Ritter, legal coordinator of the AHLC. “Though pharmacies should accommodate religious beliefs when possible, the rights of the patient to receive needed medication takes precedence. Moreover, the regulations don't target any particular religious belief, as secular pharmacists are required to fill prescriptions also. So the idea that pharmacists are being negatively singled out due to their religion doesn’t hold true.”
The regulations were put in place by the pharmacy board after it became aware of pharmacists in Washington and other states refusing on religious grounds to fill prescriptions for medicines such as birth control and the morning-after pill. However, as noted in the brief, regulations appropriately accommodate pharmacists’ religious beliefs by allowing them to have a colleague at the same store fill the prescription (if the other pharmacist is willing to do so). The brief argues that the regulations don’t single out religious beliefs, and requiring pharmacies to fill prescriptions is a religiously-neutral regulation.
The American Humanist Association was involved in reviewing the Americans United-written brief and recommending changes.
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.