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Supreme Court Won't Hear Arguments on 'Religious Liberty' Legislation


In one of its final acts of the session, the U.S. Supreme Court said Tuesday it will not take up a challenge to a Washington state law that makes it illegal for pharmacies to refuse to carry certain medications based on "religious freedom" objections.

In effect, the high court said it would not weigh in on the debate and therefore keeps the state law intact.

In 2007, the Washington Legislature passed a law making it illegal to refuse to stock drugs for reasons of conscience. Family-owned Ralph's Thriftway then challenged the law, saying it would not stock or dispense Plan B medication—better known as the morning-after pill—due to company owners' Christian beliefs.

A federal judge agreed, declaring the Washington law unconstitutional but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in July 2015, thus upholding the state law. The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to revisit Thriftway's arguments.

"Religious liberty" proponents have introduced legislation at statehouses across the U.S., including in Idaho, where Rep. Lynn Luker (R-Boise) took pages from the Focus on the Family playbook for a pair of bills in 2014. In effect, the measures would have protected professionals if they denied services based on religious beliefs. While those bills died in committee, opponents said they expected similar future efforts based on the same arguments.