ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Pro-life entities in St. Louis, Missouri have filed suit to challenge the recent addition of abortive mothers to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.
As previously reported, Board Bill 203 was presented earlier this year by Alderman Megan Green, who said that the protections were necessary to keep employers and landlords from acting adversely when a mother chooses to the end the life of her unborn child.
“Employers can have their own beliefs,” she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “but they shouldn’t be able to impose those beliefs on people or fire someone because of those beliefs.”
The bill makes it illegal to “fail or refuse to hire, to discharge or otherwise to discriminate against any individuals with respect to compensation or the terms, conditions or privileges of employment, because of their reproductive health decisions or pregnancy status.”
In addition to prohibiting landlords from turning down an applicant for their “reproductive health decisions,” the ordinance also criminalizes those who “print or circulate or cause to be printed or circulated, any statement, advertisement or publication, or to make any inquiry in connection with prospective employment” in expressing that the entity has hiring preferences and specifications regarding the matter.
The move passed 17-10 in February, with some council members opining that the ordinance causes unnecessary division in that it is based on a controversial subject. Alderman Joseph Vaccaro presented an amendment to send the matter back to committee for further debate, but it was rejected.
Roman Catholic groups had vowed to challenge the ordinance in court, and on Monday, they followed through with their promise. Plaintiffs in the filing include a number of Catholic elementary schools under the Archdiocese of St. Louis, a Catholic non-profit that provides pro-life counseling and housing to pregnant women, a local manufacturing company, and its Catholic owner.
They state that as pro-life organizations, they be free to hire only those who share their values and mission—especially in the case of Plaintiff Our Lady’s Inn, whose daily work is to help expecting mothers to choose life.
“The law would therefore force nonprofit organizations like Our Lady’s Inn, whose mission is to promote and facilitate abortion alternatives, to hire abortion advocates, despite their opposition to the ministry’s reason for existence,” explained Sarah Pitlyk of the Thomas More Society, which is representing the entities in court.
“Ordinance 70459 prevents Plaintiffs—religious institutions, faith-based employers and pro-life organizations—from making employment and housing and real estate decisions consistent with their institutional missions and sincere moral and religious beliefs about human life,” the complaint likewise echoes.
“Ordinance 70459 denies religious and pro-life organizations the right to practice their faith, to freely associate around a common cause, to speak freely, and to be true to their missions,” it says.
The legal challenge notes that the ordinance subjects organizations to lawsuits simply because they decline to hire individuals who are actively “advocating, promoting, participating in or providing abortions” contrary to the purpose and mission of the entity.
“This exposure compels Plaintiffs to censor their opposition to abortion rather than risk expensive litigation,” the complaint states.
The Catholic entities are therefore seeking a declaration that the ordinance unlawfully violates the freedom of association, speech and religion, and are asking for an injunction against its enforcement.