.- A federal judge ruled Sept. 30 that a St. Louis ordinance banning discrimination based on reproductive health decisions violates both the U.S. Constitution and Missouri law.
The St. Louis ordinance, enacted in Feb. 2017, barred pro-life organizations from refusing to hire abortion proponents and rent to abortion clinics, and required non-religious employers to cover or pay for abortions through their employee health plans, according to a news release from the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.
“The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has now been made aware that it is unconstitutional to require pro-life organizations to hire or rent property to abortion proponents, and that it is illegal to require pro-life employers to include abortion coverage in their employee health plans,” Sarah Pitlyk, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, said in the statement.
Attorneys from the Thomas More Society represented several Catholic entities and the Catholic CEO of a for-profit company in a lawsuit against the City of St. Louis, filed during May 2017.
Judge Audrey Fleissig of the Eastern District of Missouri wrote that the ordinance violated the First Amendment rights of Our Lady’s Inn—a pro-life pregnancy center—and the Archdiocesan elementary schools of St. Louis by forcing them “to employ or house individuals who advocate for or perform abortions.”
The judge also ruled that the CEO of O’Brien Industrial Holdings, Frank O’Brien, was being forced to provide “health care benefits covering abortion, contraception, or sterilization” in violation of the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“I speak on behalf of the entire Archdiocese of St. Louis when I thank the Thomas More Society, and all who seek to protect the individual rights of all members of our society — both born and unborn,” Archbishop Robert J. Carlson wrote in a statement following the ruling.
“With this ruling, for which we are grateful, our great city follows in the footsteps of its patron, St. Louis King of France, in its protection of the weak from the strong.”
Archbishop Carlson said last year that the St. Louis ordinance would “force the people of St. Louis to be complicit in the profound evil of abortion.”
“This would be a flagrant violation of religious liberty and individual rights of conscience,” he said, urging St. Louis citizens to oppose the ordinance.
Alderman Megan-Ellyia Green, the original sponsor of the ordinance, said the amendment would clarify that women “should be free to make reproductive choices they want to make without consequences from their employer or landlord,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said.
According to Green, the ordinance would not limit a religious institution from firing an employee who advocates abortion.
Archbishop Carlson, however, was adamant, saying the Archdiocese of St. Louis “cannot and will not comply with any ordinance…that attempts to force the Church and others to become unwilling participants in the abortion business.”
“There is no room for compromise on such a matter. This is a matter of fundamental religious and moral beliefs,” he said.
The archbishop added that archdiocese would help provide spiritual and material assistance to all in need, “especially the poor and those women facing crisis pregnancies who feel they have no one else to turn to for help.”