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Illinois Appellate Court rules against Winnebago County, upholds protections of the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act in ongoing case filed by County pediatric nurse

Media Contacts: Barbara Fornasiero, EAFocus   Communications; [email protected]; 248.260.8466; Noel Sterett; [email protected]; 815.997.7221

Rockford, Illinois —March 9, 2020—Noel Sterett, a religious liberty attorney and partner  in the Rockford, Illinois office of Detroit-based law firm Dalton + Tomich,announced a favorable decision on Friday, March 6 from the Second District Appellate Court in Illinois in a health care right of conscience case filed by Sterett on behalf of former  Winnebago County Health Clinic pediatric nurse, Sandra Rojas. Nurse Rojas lost her job of 18 years in 2016 after refusing on religious grounds to participate in clinic services involving birth control and abortion.

“There are two Illinois laws that protect Ms. Rojas’ right to not participate in the provision of medical services which violate her conscience: the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act (Conscience Act) and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The courts have rejected every attempt by the County to have nurse Rojas’ claims thrown out,” Sterett said.

In the March 6 decision, the Illinois Appellate Court rejected the County’s request to substantially weaken the employee-protections of the Conscience Act and RFRA by reading employer protections into both state laws which are only found under Title VII, an unrelated federal law. In doing so, the Court upheld the protections of the Conscience Act and RFRA and the protections of conscience rights due all health care professionals.

“The Court’s decision will now allow Ms. Rojas to present her strong claims to a jury,” Sterett said. “This decision is not only a win for my client, but for all health care professionals throughout Illinois.”

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