Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Wisconsin pharmacist faces charges for following his conscience

News Release

11 October, 2004

Wisconsin, USA

Christian Legal Society
Hearing Today on Charges Against Pharmacist
Who Declined to Fill Birth Control Prescription

MADISON, WI - The Wisconsin Pharmacy Examining Board will hear charges today against Neil Noesen, a Roman Catholic pharmacist who declined to fill a prescription for birth control pills. The Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing charged Noesen with "engaging in a pharmacy practice which constitutes a danger to the health, welfare or safety of a patient." Christian Legal Society's Center for Law & Religious Freedom is participating in Noesen's defense at today's hearing in Madison.

Neil Noesen is a licensed pharmacist practicing in the State of Wisconsin and a devout Roman Catholic. Early in 2002, Noesen began working as an independent contractor for RPh on the Go USA, Inc., a pharmacist placement company. RPh on the Go found Noesen a position as an interim pharmacist with the K-Mart Pharmacy in Menomonie, Wisconsin. When he started the assignment, Noesen notified K-Mart's Managing Pharmacist Ken Jordanby that he could not participate in filling contraception prescriptions without violating his religious beliefs. K-Mart agreed that Noesen would not have to fill prescription orders for contraceptives, and Jordanby worked out an arrangement whereby he would process orders for contraceptives at the end of each day.

On Saturday, July 6, 2002, a patient requested a refill of her prescription for a birth control medication. Noesen was the only pharmacist on duty that day. Pursuant to his arrangement with Jordanby, Noesen informed the patient that his religious convictions prevented him from filling the prescription. The patient called the K-Mart store manager, who told her that Jordanby would come in the next day and fill the prescription. However, Jordanby did not appear, and Noesen was again unable to fill the prescription. The prescription was filled the next day.

The patient filed a complaint against Noesen with the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing on July 17, 2002. Medical experts will testify at today's hearing that the delay in filling the prescription in no way adversely affected the patient, who did not become pregnant. On October 23, 2003, the Department notified Noesen that it had instituted disciplinary proceedings against him before the Pharmacy Examining Board. The Department charged Noesen with engaging in a pharmacy practice "which constitutes a danger to the health welfare, or safety of patient or public," reasoning that Noesen's adherence to his religious conscience constitutes a threat to patients and the public.

"Noesen believes he cannot fill prescriptions for contraceptives without violating his duties before God. The state should respect that, especially when a patient will not be harmed," said Center Director Gregory S. Baylor, Esq.

CLS Center Chief Litigation Counsel Steven H. Aden is assisting lead counsel Krystal Williams-Oby in Noesen's defense. The Alliance Defense Fund is generously supporting the Center's work on this

CONTACT: GREGORY S. BAYLOR, at Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom, 703-642-1070 x3502