June 28, 2016

James A. Smith Sr.





Supreme Court Sends ‘Ominous’ Religious Freedom Signal, NRB Says

WASHINGTON (NRB) – The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is deeply disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday not to grant a hearing to Stormans v. Wiesman, a case challenging pharmacy rules tailored by the state of Washington to discriminate against those with religious objections to abortion. NRB agrees with dissenting Justice Samuel Alito that “this case is an ominous sign.”

“This week the same five Supreme Court justices who yesterday rejected Texas’ common-sense health and safety regulations on abortion providers and one year ago used legal gymnastics to impose a radical understanding of marriage on the nation again show they are willing to bend or ignore the U.S. Constitution to appease liberal elites,” stated Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB. “In this case, these justices seem not to think worthy of a hearing a well-grounded case based on the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of the freedom to believe and live in accordance with deeply held religious beliefs. Justice Alito is right — the apparent takeaway here is that ‘those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.’”

In this case, Ralph’s Thriftway, a family-owned business, sought relief from a Washington state regulation that outlawed conscience-motivated referrals from one pharmacy to another for the dispensation of an abortifacient known as the “Morning After Pill.” This rule, strong-armed into effect in 2007 by then-Governor Christine Gregoire (D) with the help of Planned Parenthood, was also opposed by the American Pharmacists Association among other pharmacy groups. Notably, the state allows referrals for numerous other business and convenience reasons.

The pharmacists were victorious in the U.S. District Court on grounds that the rule violated the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in favor of the state. 

Among notable quotes from Justice Alito’s dissent, in which he was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas:

  • “There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State.”
  •  “The dilemma this creates for the Stormans family and others like them is plain: Violate your sincerely held religious beliefs or get out of the pharmacy business.”
  • “The bottom line is clear: Washington would rather have no pharmacy than one that doesn’t toe the line on abortifacient emergency contraceptives. Particularly given the State’s stipulation that ‘facilitated referrals do not pose a threat to timely access’ to such drugs, … it is hard not to view its actions as exhibiting hostility toward religious objections.”

Notably, attorneys for NRB member Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) were lead counsel for the pharmacists in this case. ADF’s statement on Tuesday’s action is here.

About NRB

The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a nonpartisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers, and readers. Our mission is to advance biblical truth; to promote media excellence; and to defend free speech. In addition to promoting standards of excellence, integrity, and accountability, NRB provides networking, educational, ministry, and fellowship opportunities for its members. Learn more at

About the NRB Convention

The annual NRB International Christian Media Convention is the largest nationally and internationally recognized event dedicated solely to assist those in the field of Christian communications. The dynamic Exposition consists of around 200 companies and is an active marketplace for those seeking tools and services to expand their organizations. The next Convention, Proclaim 17, will be held at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Fla., February 27-March 2, 2017. For more information, go to




National Religious Broadcasters
9510 Technology Drive
Manassas, VA 20110
(703) 330-7000