February 2016

ACLU Continues to Seek Clarity on Walgreens-Providence Collaboration

By Leah Rutman, ACLU-WA Policy Counsel

There continues to be a lack of clarity as to whether the health clinics to be opened in Washington and Oregon through a collaboration of Walgreens and Providence Health & Services will be bound by religious doctrine. The ACLU is pleased to have received assurances from Walgreens that its pharmacies will continue to provide services free of religious restrictions. But we are disappointed that we have not received similar assurances regarding the soon-to-open clinics.

On December 14, the ACLU of Washington, the ACLU of Oregon and 17 other public interest organizations that advocate for patients’ rights and comprehensive health care access sent a letter to Walgreens requesting information about its strategic collaboration for the opening of up to 25 clinics in Washington and Oregon with Providence Health & Services, a Catholic health care provider. Walgreens is the nation’s largest drug store chain.

The organizations sought to learn whether religious doctrine will limit access to important medical services, information, and referrals at the clinics, and will limit Walgreens pharmacies’ ability to fill prescriptions.

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Standing Up for Someone We Disagree With

by David Rogers, Executive Director

Making sense of the recent events at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is no easy task. Like much of the country and all of Oregon we have been watching closely. In the face of misinformation and misinterpretation of our position, let me be clear. We believe the militia occupiers should be held accountable for their actions. We have questions about the government’s approach to accountability in the specific case on Pete Santilli, one of those arrested. 

We are not representing Santilli or any of the occupiers. We are not defending what he has to say, only his right to say it.

Many find Pete Santilli’s videos and radio show to be offensive and repugnant. In America we are allowed to express our views, including antigovernment or sophomoric views, without fear of government reprisal. In the court of public opinion, we can reject this type of speech as hateful rhetoric, but we cannot be thrown in jail solely for our speech. Is that what happened here? That’s the question we are posing.

The ACLU has a long history of standing up for free expression and it often finds us strange bedfellows with groups whose views we fundamentally disagree with. What it comes down to is the First Amendment applies to all people – no matter who they are or what they believe. 

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The First Amendment Rights of “Shock-Jock” Pete Santilli

The ACLU of Oregon stands in solidarity with the thousands of Oregonians, particularly in rural communities, who are peacefully protesting the unwanted militia occupation in Harney County. There are reports that some of these occupiers have been intimidating and threatening community members. These are not social change strategies we support. Likewise, it is not lost on us that what was framed as a protest about land rights has ignored the historic territory of the Burns Paiute Tribe and desecrated sacred cultural properties. 

Although it may be easy to form a negative opinion about the tactics used by the people involved in the occupation, it is much harder to assess the government’s response. We have been watching how one of the people arrested, Pete Santilli, has been treated in court and we have real concerns. 
It is in this context that the ACLU of Oregon is compelled to speak out, not because we endorse the messages of the speaker or condone the tactics of the protesters.

by Mat dos Santos, Legal Director, ACLU of Oregon

There is no doubt that when Pete Santilli gets in front of the camera he is politically polarizing and, to many, downright offensive. He challenges government authority through brazen, political statements. But does he pose a real threat? That’s the question asked of a federal judge last week: Should Pete Santilli remain in custody while awaiting his criminal trial for charges related to the Malheur Refuge takeover? While many people might disagree with statements made by those involved in the Malheur takeover, Americans have a fundamental right to freedom of speech. Law enforcement can and should differentiate between controversial statements and real threats. What’s at stake here could indeed be larger than a radio personality’s career, Malheur and Oregon.

Santilli, who hosts an internet radio show and YouTube channel with over 60,000 viewers, had dedicated his show to covering the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as an embedded journalist. This coverage was the basis for his arrest warrant as well as a threadbare indictment on a charge of conspiracy to impede federal officers by use of force, intimidation and threats. If convicted of this federal felony, Santilli could face up to six years in prison.

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