Cultural Issues in the Courts: February 2016 Update

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February 12, 2016

Since our previous update, the cultural issue seemingly dominating court dockets involves conscience protections, as it relates to abortion and possible abortifacient drugs. Prayer Point: The Little Sisters of the Poor case – Zubick vs. Burwell—will have far-reaching implications on religious freedom. Please be in prayer for a favorable decision.

Religious Freedom, Pharmacists, Conscience ― Washington State

The deeply religious Stormans family owns and operates a pharmacy in Olympia, Washington. They’ve asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in to protect their religious freedom from a Washington state pharmacy rule requiring them to stock and dispense possible abortion-causing drugs, contrary to their religious conscience. The 2007 rule they are fighting was drafted by Planned Parenthood at the request of then-governor Christine Gregoire. The Stormans won their lawsuit in federal district court in 2012, but that decision was later reversed by the liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Life, Abortion Regulations, 6-Week Ban ― North Dakota

North Dakota’s attempt to ban abortions after six weeks gestation has ended unsuccessfully at the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court refused to hear an appeal from a decision of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which struck down the state’s 2013 law. In an unusual move, the 8th Circuit judges who struck down the law suggested that they had no choice, based on outdated (from 1992) U.S. Supreme Court precedent, and urged the high court to revisit its abortion cases which were decided before the advanced scientific and medical knowledge now available concerning the development of preborn babies. The majority of the justices turned away the appeal without comment.

Religious Freedom, Religious Schools, State Programs ― Missouri

In a follow-up to a story we’ve previously highlighted, the U.S. Supreme Court has accepted an appeal from a Lutheran preschool in Missouri, which was denied participation in a state program that helped repave school playgrounds with material from recycled tires. The school’s request was denied solely because of its religious nature, the state citing a state constitutional prohibition against state funds being used “in aid of any church.” But the state’s denial could also be construed as government hostility toward religion, a stance prohibited by the First Amendment.

Religious Freedom, Little Sisters of the Poor, HHS Mandate ― U.S. Supreme Court

The religious freedom case involving the Little Sisters of the Poor, plus 36 other individuals and organizations   against the federal government is scheduled for oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court on March 23. The case concerns the federal government’s attempt to force religious nonprofit employers to provide possible abortion-causing contraceptives in company health plans. The appeal will be titled Zubick v. Burwell.

© 2016 Focus on the Family.