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Is Governor Gregoire guilty of persecuting the church?
Dr. Joseph B. Fuiten
Analysis by Dr. Joseph B. Fuiten
Sunday, November 11, 2007

Today is designated as a day of prayer for the persecuted church. Christians all across the world will be praying for those suffering imprisonment, torture, deprivation of political rights and even death. 

Christians in Washington State should not overlook the Governor as a persecutor of moral and religious conscience. 

The Governor has been behind a move to deprive pharmacies and pharmacists of their religious rights. When the Board of Pharmacy wanted to guarantee such a right of religious conscience, she threatened to replace the entire Board if they did not comply with her political agenda. The Board caved in to the pressure from the Governor and made it illegal for a pharmacist to exercise their religious conscience.

A move was under way to persecute those who held to their conscience.

The Governor had already applied economic pressure upon store owners, trying to deprive them of their livelihood, in order to force them to abandon the exercise of their religious conscience. When the government began legal moves to force pharmacists to abandon their religious conscience, Christians fought back by going to court.

On Thursday of last week, a federal court confirmed that the right of Washington pharmacists and pharmacies to follow their conscience when they object to dispensing abortion-inducing drugs on religious grounds will be protected while a lawsuit by two pharmacists and a pharmacy owner moves forward. The court enjoined enforcement of the newly passed regulations, which the pharmacy and pharmacists are challenging, until a decision is reached in the case.

This type of religious persecution by the government in Washington State is on hold pending the outcome of a trial currently scheduled for October 2008

The court's  27-page order stated, "the regulations appear to target religious practice in a way forbidden by the Constitution" and "appear to intentionally place a significant burden on the free exercise of religion for those who believe life begins at conception ..."  
 
To enter the injunction, the Court had to find that the Christian health-care providers would likely prevail on their First Amendment claim at the trial in October.  
 
The court went on to state:  "The evidence ... convinces the court that the interests promoted by the regulations have more to do with convenience and heartfelt feelings than with actual access to certain medications. Patients understandably may not want to drive farther than the closest pharmacy and they do not want to be made to feel bad when they get there. These interests are certainly legitimate, but they are not compelling interests of the kind necessary to justify the substantial burden placed on the free exercise of religion."
 
Before the new regulations were passed, Kevin Stormans, an owner of Ralph's Thriftway, received a phone call inquiring about whether the store carried Plan B. After researching the abortion-inducing drug and its effects, Stormans, a Christian, decided that his store would not stock the drug based on religious and moral grounds.  Activists then began to picket Ralph's and filed complaints with the Washington Board of Pharmacy. The board investigated Ralph's for over a year and then referred the matter to legal counsel.

When it became apparent the board would pursue charges, Stormans contacted Kristen Waggoner at Ellis, Li & McKinstry. They represent Stormans, Inc., doing business as Ralph's, along with two Christian pharmacists. The Alliance Defense Fund is also assisting with the case.
 
"The government shouldn't force pro-life pharmacists or any other health care providers to violate their religious beliefs simply to appease a political agenda," said lead counsel Kristen Waggoner. "The right to conscientiously object to the taking of human life is deeply rooted in our nation's history and laws. The 'morning-after' pill can unnaturally and deliberately kill innocent human life."
 
Waggoner added, "The First Amendment prohibits the government from deliberately targeting and discriminating against people because of their religious beliefs. Federal law also requires employers to accommodate employees who have religious objections. Conscience laws have successfully balanced the First Amendment rights of health care providers and the patient's interest in convenience for many years." 

The full text of the order granting the motion for preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in the case Stormans v. Selecky can be read at
www.telladf.org/UserDocs/StormansPIRuling.pdf.

When you pray for the persecuted
church around the world, don't forget
those who would take  away our
liberties right here in Washington.
Dr. Joseph B. Fuiten is the senior pastor of Cedar Park Church in Bothell, Washington, and he is the former president of Positive Christian Agenda. Currently, Pastor Fuiten serves on the Board of Directors for the Family Policy Institute of Washington, an associate organization of Focus on the Family.