Sandra Rojas had worked as a pediatric nurse for 18 years in the Winnebago County Health Department when, in 2015, she and other nurses were required to undergo training that involved learning about abortion referrals and abortifacient contraceptives.
Rojas objected, saying her Christian faith prohibited her from assisting in abortion services. Although her supervisor gave her a temporary religious accommodation, Rojas was told that the training and the abortion-related services were required to work in her position.
Rojas resigned her position and then sued the county, alleging it had violated her freedom of religion and freedom of conscience rights.
Judge Eugene G. Doherty of the 17th Judicial Circuit sided with Rojas last year, ruling the department “improperly discriminated” against Rojas “by refusing to accommodate her objections of conscience.” The department, the judge ruled, had violated the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act.
Alliance Defending Freedom served as co-counsel in the case alongside Noel Sterett of Dalton & Tomich and Whitman Brisky of Mauck & Baker.
“Medical professionals should never be forced to engage in or promote activities that violate their beliefs or convictions,” said ADF senior counsel Kevin Theriot. “Sandra served as a nurse according to her conscience and religion – a right for medical providers that is protected under Illinois and federal law. The court’s fee award sends a clear message that health care workers are free to practice medicine in a manner consistent with their conscience and religious beliefs, and there will be a steep penalty if the government fails to respect that legally protected freedom.