NY Tries to Force Pro-Life Pregnancy Center to Hire Pro-Abortion Employees
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A federal court of appeals has reversed a lower court ruling that protected a New York state labor law that prohibits pro-life pregnancy resource centers from only hiring pro-life employees.
Earlier this week, a panel of three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled the lower court was wrong in dismissing Evergreen Association, Inc.'s First Amendment claim that the so-called 2019 "Boss Bill" law forced the nonprofit to employ people who have had abortions or support abortion.
"Evergreen's beliefs about the morality of abortion are its defining values; forcing it to accept as members those who engage in or approve of that conduct would cause the group as it currently identifies itself to cease to exist," Circuit Judge Steven Menashi wrote in the 28-page decision.
The case will now go to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York for further proceedings.
Evergreen is represented by the Thomas More Society, a national not-for-profit law firm.
"A counselor who espouses pro-life values, but did not regret having had an abortion or would opt to have an abortion in the future would undercut Evergreen's message," Thomas More Society Special Counsel Timothy Belz said in a statement. "Evergreen's constitutional right to expressive association allows it to determine that its pro-life views can be conveyed only by those who completely support and affirm the organization's mission, in both word and deed."
Evergreen operates maternal health and pregnancy centers under the names Expectant Mother and EMC Frontline Pregnancy in New York City and its suburbs. The group employs only pro-life staff.
In 2020, the organization's founder and CEO, Christopher Slattery, filed a lawsuit against the state of New York, challenging the constitutionality of the "Boss Bill" that makes persons who have abortions a protected class under the state's employment nondiscrimination laws.
The lawsuit argued that being forced to hire employees who had abortions would hinder Evergreen's mission to encourage expectant mothers to choose life for their unborn children.
Belz added that no organization should be compelled to hire employees who are opposed to its core principles.
"That would be a contradiction and expose the organization to accusations of hypocrisy," he explained. "That is true across the board for all types of groups. For example, a parochial school should not be forced to employ an atheist as a teacher, and an animal shelter should not have to hire an adoption facilitator who hates dogs."
When considering the ruling's national implications, Belz said states must realize these types of laws will not withstand constitutional scrutiny.
"We trust the Second Circuit's ruling will discourage any state legislature from enacting legislation that would violate an organization's First Amendment rights, including the right to work with those who share their values," he said.
"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. We are grateful to the Thomas More Society for defending our free speech rights," Slattery said in a statement.
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