A crisis pregnancy center’s lawsuit over a New York law barring employers from discriminating based on “reproductive health decision making” will be allowed to proceed, a federal court said Monday.
The law, which prevents employers from firing employees who support abortion, violates Evergreen Association, Inc.’s First Amendment right to freedom of expressive association, according to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court. Evergreen Association, Inc., a nonprofit that operates crisis pregnancy centers in New York, originally filed its lawsuit in 2020, challenging both the New York state law and a similar New York City law.
“In order to further its mission, Plaintiff hires and employs only employees who adhere to Plaintiff’s position on and opposition to abortion,” the lawsuit states. “According to the two challenged laws, this is unlawful discrimination, and Plaintiff’s entirely pro-life focused organization should be required to consider candidates who are pro-choice and to employ those who have abortions.”
Circuit Judges Steven Menashi wrote that “the district court erred in dismissing Evergreen’s expressive association claim.”
“The right to expressive association allows Evergreen to determine that its message will be effectively conveyed only by employees who sincerely share its views,” Menashi wrote. “To decide whether someone holds certain views—and therefore would be a reliable advocate—Evergreen asks whether that person has engaged or will engage in conduct antithetical to those views. Evergreen has plausibly alleged that, by foreclosing Evergreen’s ability to reject employees whose actions suggest that they believe the opposite of the message it is trying to convey, [the law] severely burdens Evergreen’s First Amendment right to freedom of expressive association.”
Chris Slattery, founder and CEO of Evergreen Association, Inc’s Expectant Mother Care-Frontline Pregnancy Centers, told the Daily Caller News Foundation he is “optimistic” about the decision, which he says protects his organization from being forced to hire someone who contradicts its core values or prohibited from firing an employee who is discovered to be pro-abortion.
Hiring laws like New York’s have the potential to “revolutionize society,” Slattery said, turning organizations into “agents of the state” by denying them the right to operate according to their religious principles. (RELATED: 24 Red State AGs Demand Yelp Stop ‘Discriminating’ Against Crisis Pregnancy Centers)
Under the law, Slattery said it was unclear whether his organization could even place ads noting that they are looking for pro-life employees.
The case will now be sent back to the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York for “further proceedings consistent with [the 2nd Circuit’s] opinion.”
The New York Attorney General’s office declined to comment. New York Governor Kathy Hochul did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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