In New York City, the Evergreen Association, Inc., a pro-life pregnancy resource center, found itself at odds with a state labor law known as the "Boss Bill." Passed in 2019, the law prohibited pregnancy resource centers from discriminating against employees or employee applicants based on their pro-abortion views and participation. Evergreen, operating under the names Expectant Mother and EMC Frontline Pregnancy, employed only pro-life staff and believed that this law violated its First Amendment right to expressive association.
Determined to challenge the constitutionality of the "Boss Bill," Evergreen and its founder and CEO, Christopher Slattery, turned to the Thomas More Society for legal representation. In 2020, they brought a suit against New York, contending that being forced to hire employees who have had abortions would hinder their mission to encourage expectant mothers to choose life for their unborn children.Thomas More Society Special Counsel Timothy Belz argued that forcing Evergreen to employ individuals who do not regret having an abortion or would opt for an abortion in the future would undercut the organization's pro-life message.
Belz emphasized that Evergreen's constitutional right to expressive association allows the organization to determine that its pro-life views can only be conveyed by those who completely support and affirm its mission, both in words and deeds.On February 27, 2023, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with Evergreen, reversing a lower court ruling that had upheld the "Boss Bill." The appellate court stated that the law forces Evergreen to employ people who have had abortions, and the lower court was incorrect in dismissing the organization's claim. The case will now be remanded to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York for further proceedings consistent with the appellate court's ruling.
Slattery expressed gratitude to the Thomas More Society for defending Evergreen's free speech rights, stating, "We are thrilled that a Federal Court in New York affirmed what we knew from the beginning, the need to shield pregnancy resource centers from unconstitutional laws that try to thwart their mission." Belz added that no organization should be compelled to hire employees opposed to its core principles, as it would lead to contradictions and accusations of hypocrisy. He used examples such as a parochial school being forced to employ an atheist teacher or an animal shelter hiring an adoption facilitator who hates dogs.In terms of the ruling's national implications, Belz hopes that states will understand that laws like the "Boss Bill" will not withstand constitutional scrutiny. He trusts that the Second Circuit's ruling will discourage state legislatures from enacting legislation that would violate an organization's First Amendment rights, including the right to work with those who share their values.
The story of the Evergreen Association and the Thomas More Society's involvement in the case serves as a reminder of the importance of standing up for one's beliefs and the critical role that organizations like the Thomas More Society play in defending the rights of those facing adversity.
As a result of their unwavering commitment to justice, Evergreen can continue its mission to encourage expectant mothers to choose life for their unborn children without compromising its core principles.