Sunday, January 31, 2016

Can religious beliefs exempt individuals from the law?

In recent years, religion has become more debatable within the United States, due to the growing numbers of different religious groups, which are constantly entering the country. However, in a country, which was established upon Christian principles, there is still a great amount of animosity between Christian populations and particular political social groups. With these growing tensions, come several disagreements between these avid followers of the Christian religion and specific social groups; for example, the conflict between the state of Washington and Ralph’s Thriftway, a small family owned grocery store.
In 2007, the State of Washington mandated that all pharmacies within the state be willing to sell Plan-B and other “abortion inducing drugs”. While this may seem slightly unnecessary to someone who does not affiliate himself or herself with a conservative religion, it is a big deal to those living in and near Olympia, Washington, home to Ralph’s Thriftway.
Ralph’s Thriftway, as stated previously, is a small, family owned grocery store, and so happens to be a Christian affiliated company, due to the Storman family’s affiliation with the church. The store sells an assortment of items, ranging from your standard fruits and vegetables, to toiletries. However, what really sets this grocery store apart from other small, non-chain stores, is the fact that it has a pharmacy. Yes, a pharmacy; perfect for a small town, or so you would think.
Due to the Storman’s dedication to the Christian religion, the store is refusing to sell Plan-B and other abortifacients. While some would not consider the consumption of Plan-B and other similar products to be an abortion, the Storman family does.
Plan-B and other abortifacients are used to prevent a possible pregnancy. Whether the egg has already been fertilized, or the consumption of the pill is strictly precautionary, the purpose of the pill is the same: to prevent a possible pregnancy. In lieu of this, the Storman family sees this as an act of abortion by a potential mother, due to the fact that, while the fertilized egg has not attached to the wall of the uterus, there is still a potential life form being created. While alternative groups may find this to be quite extreme, the Storman family is sticking to their claim and refusing to sell the products. However, they do notify customers as to where they may obtain the drugs at other, nearby, pharmacies.
So if the Storman’s are aiding their customers in obtaining the drugs they need, why is their refusal to sell the drugs such a big deal?
The owners of Ralph’s Thriftway believe they should be exempt from the otherwise secular law due to their religious beliefs. In addition, they believe they should be exempt from Washington State’s law, due to the fact that they are a small  business, surrounded by larger businesses, which carry the drugs. In all, should the Storman family’s religious beliefs exempt them from this law?
Some would argue yes, if the pharmacists are referring their clients to alternate locations which sell the drugs they are seeking, then they should not have to sell aborificients due to their religious beliefs. However, others, such as myself, may argue in opposition.
In all, Ralph’s Thriftway should not be exempt from selling Plan B and other abortifacients strictly based upon their religious beliefs. 
When an individual, or family, opens any type of business, whether that may be a
grocery store or a restaurant, they are there to adhere to the needs of those they are serving. It is not within their role to deny a customer of a service or product based solely upon their personal beliefs. Take this for example: a Christian restaurant denies a gay couple service, because, based upon their religious beliefs, they do not support same sex marriages. So, as a result, they send them to an alternative restaurant down the street, where they know they will be served the food they were seeking. This is not justified. How is the case of Ralph’s Thriftway any different?
Often times, for a female, going to a pharmacy and asking for an abortifacient takes a special type of courage and strength that no one may understand until they themselves have to do it. By undermining this courage, Ralph's Thriftway is making it more difficult for women who's circumstances include, but also span far beyond,  a simple accident. These women may not have had your standard “mistake” the night prior; they may be victims of horrible crimes, seeking the aid of a pill, which will help to ensure that they will not have to be further pained by their experience. 
This case has gained much traction in the debate between religious liberties and abiding by the law, through the Supreme Court.
So I ask you this: who is the Storman family to think that their religious beliefs not only exempt them from the law, but also justify taking away the opportunity to help a female in possibly protecting her future?


Sarah A said...

In terms of ideals, I absolutely agree with you. However, I found this case pretty similar to the case last year with Hobby Lobby. The Supreme Court upheld Hobby Lobby's right to not provide contraceptives to its employees through their health care. This ruling was made for "family businesses" owned mostly by a small number of individuals. It is safe to say this grocery stores fall under this category. For this reason, I think "Right to Practice" is upheld. Since the grocery store is providing information about where nearby women can get these products, using the hobby lobby case as an example, I think they have the right to not sell plan B.

Matthew L. said...

Although I can see where you are coming from with your decision to say that the store must provide the contraceptives to the customers, I think it could be seen differently if you reimagined your alternate scenario. If you walked into a restaurant being run by people of a specific faith, and the faith required that you can never eat meat, would you have the right to tell them that they had to cook you meat? Most, including myself, would say no. If you wanted to eat meat, you could have gone to other restaurants, and been satisfied. Similarly, I think that by supplying a list of other places where you can buy the contraceptives, the store has been able to give the customers a place to go to receive what they are asking for, without breaking from their own faith.

Kiriko Masek said...

I found the story on Ralph's Thriftway to be a very interesting scenario. When I began reading this post, my immediate reaction was that yes, the store should provide contraceptives to its customers. But as I continued to examine the situation at hand, I found myself torn in the situation. By law, Ralph's Thriftway should provide contraceptives such as products like Plan B. But Matthew L. made a great point in his comment about the scenario being reversed. Forcing the owners of this pharmacy to go against their strongly rooted beliefs and sell products that violate the religion that they practice seems morally unacceptable. As long as the store owners are not lecturing their customers and forcing customers to listen to their own personal beliefs, I think that they should be allowed to not sell these contraceptives. If the store owners politely tell their customers that no, they do not sell those products in their store and then provide places elsewhere that the customer can purchase their desired product, then I feel that the store owner has the right to not sell products that infringe upon their religion.

Jim R said...

I believe that if Ralph's Thriftway were to be the only pharmacy in town for a large population in a given amount of miles, then it would be unacceptable for them to not carry the Plan B contraceptives.

However, Olympia is among the top 25 population centers in Washington, which probably means there is at least another pharmacy in the area which will carry this product. While I agree with you that there are cases of abortion that result from unfortunate domestic situations and that those people deserve to be helped, I also can understand the store owner's commitment to their founding principles as a Christian grocery store.

In addition, other sects of Christianity, such as the Amish and the Mennonites, are allowed to operate businesses which have products that are made with certain religious beliefs in mind. These businesses want to produce authentic products that may lack the preservatives, encourage the growth of non genetically modified foods of secular big corporations, or target other niche markets. While these businesses have a religious influence, they all ultimately want to serve the population, whether they are religious or secular.

As all of the previous posters stated, having a listing for those who wish to use contraceptives to abort their pregnancy would relieve Thiftway of responsibility because they are educating the population about where customers can obtain the product.

"Populations of Washington (WA) Cities - Ranked by Population Size." Together We Teach. Populations of Washington (WA) Cities - Ranked by Population Size. Web. 02 Feb. 2016.

Thomas M. said...

The conflict with this case seemed to me at first to have an obvious answer, that of course they should sell these products since it is the law. Matthew L. raised an interesting point about the reversal of the situation that required me to rethink my position. The comparison however is not exact, as while this store is Christian affiliated, it does not base their offered products upon Christianity. Obviously it does not sell items that the owners believe to go against their religious beliefs, but the the typical items that they sell, such as toiletries cannot be identified as Christian products. An ethnic restaurant's cuisine is based around offering food that is related to their their cultural or religious identity. Furthermore, it can be debated whether or not the law requiring contraceptive products to be sold should have been passed, but since it was, the store must obey the law of the land.

nick paray said...

Ralph's Thriftway is a private establishment, and I believe that irrespective of religious beliefs there should be no mandate on what a business must sell. The religious entity does not seek to ban these contraceptive drugs from the marketplace, they simply belive that they have the right for their store not to provide them. Access to these drugs is not limited because of religious beliefs; there are other places where people can obtain the drugs. Mandating that a store sell a product against their religious belief seems in clear violation of the right to free exercise.

Richard Shin said...

This case is quite interesting. Coming from a family with Christian beliefs i was taught abortion was wrong for the reasons stated in this blog. Altering the possibility of a human being to come to this earth was wrong in my eyes until recently when I witnessed what teenage pregnancy can do to families. If I were to go based of my religious background I would give this establishment control of what and what they don't sell. Moving past my religious views, this is a private establishment and private means they are separated from the government. Although the government wants establishments in the area to provide Plan B and other abortion medications for those who need them Ralph's Thrifty isn't limiting the access of these drugs. There are stores around that sell these and all the customer has to do is go a few stores over to purchase these drugs. By this store not selling the abortion products the store also loses possible profit so with this view of the case the store is also losing something. Like other comments say forcing stores to sell certain products especially those that are private and those products that go against their religious behavior is wrong.