NASHVILLE – A Christian pharmacist in Tennessee has sued the national drugstore chain Walgreens for allegedly firing him after he refused to sell the morning after pill against his religious convictions.
Philip Hall of Jamestown, who also serves as a deacon at a Baptist church, has worked at his local Walgreens since 1997. For a number of years, his employer allowed Hall to refer those seeking contraceptives to another pharmacist.
However, shortly after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) complied with a court order to make Plan B available over-the-counter, all employees, Hall contends, were told in a staff meeting that they were expected to both stock and sell it. Hall then contacted both his employers and the company headquarters to explain that he considers the drug “sinful and repugnant to his sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
According to reports, last July, six boxes of Plan B were shipped to Hall’s Walgreens location. “[R]ather than place the inaccurately labeled Plan B on the shelf for sale, Dr. Hall decided to purchase the entire lot of the drugs himself”—valued more than $300, the lawsuit states—and threw them away.
However, after the incident was discovered, Hall was allegedly accused of stealing. He showed his employer his receipt, explaining that he paid for the boxes himself. Hall was then asked if he would sell the drug to customers. He replied that he could not. Hall claims that he was fired because of his response, which was based on his Christian beliefs.
According to The Tennessean, Hall then contacted another supervisor who agreed that “it was part of his job duties to sell Plan B.”
Last week, Hall filed a federal lawsuit against his employer and the Walgreens chain for religious discrimination in firing him for refusing to sell the drug as he had done in years past.
Walgreens has declined to speak specifically on the matter, but says that employees can opt-out of selling products that violate their religious beliefs.
“While we cannot comment on pending litigation, we can tell you that Walgreens company policy allows pharmacists and other employees to step away from completing a transaction to which they have a moral objection,” spokesman Jim Graham told Religion News Service. “Our policy also requires the employee to refer the transaction to another employee or manager on duty who will complete the customer’s request.”
As previously reported, a similar matter was decided in Illinois in 2012, years after then-Governor Rod Blagojevich required all pharmacists within the state to dispense of abortifacient drugs, even if doing so violated their conscience. He reportedly stated that pharmacists should “find another profession” if they did not agree with the mandate.
Pharmacists Luke VanderBleek and Glenn Kosirog, who stated that the requirement conflicted with their religious beliefs, soon filed suit, battling the matter in the courts for the next seven years. The men eventually prevailed as the 4th District Court of Appeals noted that Governor Blagojevich forced pharmacists to dispense abortion-inducing drugs in violation of the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act.