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“The question really is whether the patient’s rights come first or the pharmacist’s rights come first,” said Andrew Greene, a lawyer for the interveners.

Assistant Attorney General Rene Tomisser said Leighton’s ruling was “more detailed” but made the same mistake he made in 2007.

Margo Thelen, of Woodland, one of the pharmacists who sued over the rules, said she had to leave one job because she refused to dispense Plan B _ and now she can continue working at her new job without fear of being fired.

“Speak to anyone who shops in a pharmacy,” she said. “Their product isn’t always available.”

Two Supreme Court cases guide judges in determining whether laws that infringe upon the free exercise of religion are legal.

In one, the court held that the state of Oregon could outlaw the use of the hallucinogenic peyote for everyone, even though some groups might use it in religious conduct.

In the other, the court held that a city in Florida could not outlaw animal sacrifices for religious purposes, while allowing the slaughter of animals for food, hunting and pest eradication.

Leighton said Washington’s rules are akin to the Florida case. Though they appear to be neutral by their plain language, the state allows pharmacies not to stock or sell drugs for various business reasons, he said.

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Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle