Kirsten Andersen

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Pharmacist fired for refusing to dispense ‘morning-after’ pill sues for religious discrimination

Kirsten Andersen

NASHVILLE, TN, February 13, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Tennessee pharmacist who was fired for refusing to dispense the so-called “morning-after pill,” Plan B, has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging religious discrimination by his former employers.

Dr. Philip Hall was fired in September after six years of employment with the Walgreens chain of drugstores.  During those six years, Hall says he had received nothing but positive reviews from his employers, despite the fact that his Baptist beliefs prevented him from dispensing abortifacient drugs like Plan B.  Because federal and state laws and Walgreens corporate policy all make allowance for pharmacists whose religious beliefs preclude them from dispensing certain drugs, Hall was allowed to ask another pharmacist to fill prescriptions for Plan B when they came in.

In August, the FDA ordered Plan B sold over-the-counter; however, because of its high cost, most pharmacies keep it under lock and key.  When asked by his superiors how he would handle requests for the drug, Hall reminded them of his religious objections, and informed them that he would continue to follow corporate procedures allowing him to avoid dispensing the drug directly.  He was immediately fired.

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Now, with the help of lawyers from the Thomas More Society, Hall has sued the company, arguing that by firing him because of his religious beliefs, they violated his First Amendment rights.

“It is illegal for Walgreens to attempt to force employees like Dr. Hall to dispense certain drugs in violation of their religious and moral beliefs,” Thomas More Society attorney Jocelyn Floyd explained, “especially after six years of settled store practices showed that Walgreens could reasonably accommodate Dr. Hall’s religious beliefs with no difficulties.”

Co-counsel Larry Crain said, “Dr. Hall’s right to live according to his religious beliefs, including in his workplace, is protected both under the Federal Civil Rights Act and the Tennessee State Constitution.  Americans have the right to live according to their sincerely held religious beliefs and not be forced to participate in actions that they deeply and sincerely believe are morally wrong.”

Hall says he has suffered greatly since his firing by Walgreens.  Because he was terminated for cause, he was denied unemployment benefits during the three months it took him to find another job.  When he did find a job, it came with a 120-mile round trip commute and a lower salary.  He lost his health insurance, costing him thousands in medical bills.  Ultimately, he wound up cashing in his entire retirement investment just to survive.

Hall said that by bringing the lawsuit, he hopes to force Walgreens to compensate him for the damages he has suffered as a result of his wrongful firing.  But he emphasized that there is more at stake in the case than just his own well-being.   If the lawsuit is successful, Hall said, it could prevent other pharmacy workers from being forced to choose between honoring their consciences and keeping their jobs.

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