St. Louis Gets Schooled on Definition of Discrimination
On September 28, 2017 in St. Louis, MO, attorneys for a home for pregnant women, a group of Catholic grade schools, and a for-profit holding company and its owner have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment against the City of St. Louis. The motion states that there is no valid justification for an Ordinance that purports to forbid employers and property owners from making employment, housing, and realty decisions in accordance with their beliefs about abortion and other controversial reproductive technologies. The Motion was filed by Thomas More Society attorneys on September 25, 2017 in the United States District Court for the District of Eastern Missouri.
St. Louis’ Ordinance 70459 extends “protected class” status to any person who advocates or supports abortion, thereby discriminating against those who seek to promote life or offer pro-life alternatives to abortion. The nonprofit national public law firm, the Thomas More Society, represents those suing the City for violating their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and speech, among other federal and state laws.
“The city has taken the protections typically granted to prevent discrimination for ‘race, age, religion, sex or disability’ and applied them to anyone who has made or expects to make ‘reproductive health decisions,’ where that term is defined so broadly as to include the decision to support, advocate for, or even perform abortions,” explained Sarah Pitlyk, Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “This legislative overreaction to alleged – but entirely unsubstantiated – ‘discrimination’ is a thinly-veiled political tactic intended to silence those who seek to protect the unborn.”
Pitlyk, along with Thomas More Society President and Chief Counsel Tom Brejcha and Special Counsel Peter Breen, filed the motion seeking to have the law enjoined. They are asking to court to prohibit its enforcement, declaring this so-called “abortion sanctuary” ordinance “unconstitutional, unlawful, invalid, unenforceable, null and void.” The filing lists numerous abuses of the federally and state guaranteed rights of Our Lady’s Inn, St. Louis’ Archdiocesan Elementary Schools, Frank O’Brien and O’Brien Industrial Holdings, plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The motion details violations of:
- First Amendment Rights of Free Speech, Expressive Association, and Free Exercise of Religion
- Fourteenth Amendment Guarantees of Due Process and Equal Protection
- Missouri laws that prohibit mandating employer-provided insurance coverage for abortion (Mo. Rev. Stat. 191.724 and Mo. Rev. Stat. 376.805)
- Missouri laws that mandate and fund maternity homes, adoption and pregnancy assistance for low-income women (Mo. Rev. Stat. 188.325 and Mo. Rev. Stat. 135.600)
- The Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Mo. Rev. Stat. 1.302 and Mo. Rev. Stat. 1.307)
- Newly-enacted Missouri Senate Bill 5 (Mo. Rev. Stat. 188.125), which the State Legislature enacted in part to preempt Ordinance 70459, and especially to prevent the damage it would do to alternatives-to-abortion agencies such as Plaintiff Our Lady’s Inn
“This law, which claims to address discrimination, is blatantly discriminatory against those who believe that abortion is harmful and whose religious beliefs hold it to be a grave evil,” stated Pitlyk. “The law would require Christian organizations or Christian-owned companies to sell or rent property to individuals or organizations that promote or provide abortions; to pay for abortions through their employee health plans; and even to hire abortion advocates or proponents. It is a transparent attempt by the majority of the Board of Aldermen to advance their pro-abortion agenda by trampling the religious freedom and free speech rights of those with whom they disagree via a flagrantly unconstitutional abuse of legislative power.”
Read the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement in Our Lady’s Inn et al. v. City of St. Louis, filed September 25, 2017, by the Thomas More Society in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division here.