In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal in Stormans Inc. v. Wiesman, a case brought by Washington state pharmacists who argued for a right to deny services on grounds of religious objections.
A 2007 regulation adopted in the state bound pharmacies to fill lawful prescriptions, with the caveat that individual pharmacists with religious objections could refer patients to another pharmacist who works within the same store.
The challenge of the regulation was filed by the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, who attempted to show a unique circumstance in Washington state by claiming that most pharmacists work alone and their inability to refer patients would place pharmacists in a position of violating their religious beliefs.
Chief Justice Roberts, along with Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented, with written opinions by Justice Alito and Justice Thomas. In his 15-page dissent, Alito called the courts’ decision an “ominous sign” writing, “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.”
Many others, including the American Civil Liberties Union, praised the court’s rejection. “When a woman walks into a pharmacy, she should not fear being turned away because of the religious beliefs of the owner or the person behind the counter,” stated ACLU’s legal director, Louise Melling.
The court’s rejection upholds the July 2015 ruling in the case by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which supported the state regulation requiring pharmacies to deliver all prescribed drugs in an efficient and timely manner.