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USA: Government sued for illegal investigation of pro-life groups

Washington state’s attorney general conducted an unlawful and unconstitutional investigation into two faith-based, pro-life nonprofits’ privileged records and materials, singling out the organizations because of their life-affirming views.

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(ZENIT News / Tacoma, Washington, 12.06.2023).- Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing two faith-based, pro-life nonprofits sued the attorney general of Washington state Wednesday 29 november for conducting an unconstitutional and unlawful investigation into the organizations’ privileged records and materials, singling out the nonprofits because of their life-affirming views.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued civil investigative demands that dictate, for a time period exceeding 13 years, that Obria Group and Obria Medical Groups PNW provide answers to questions and production of documents under the pretense of conducting a civil investigation into “possible” violations of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act. As the lawsuit explains, the attorney general’s investigation does not appear to be based on a complaint or other substantive evidence of wrongdoing but is rather an exploratory probe into the lawful activities, constitutionally protected speech and associations, and nonpublic internal communications and records of two organizations that hold a disfavored view on a matter of public policy.

“The U.S. Constitution protects Obria Group and Obria Medical Groups PNW’s right to freely speak their beliefs, freely exercise their faith, freely associate with like-minded individuals and organizations, and continue to provide services in a caring and compassionate environment to women and men facing difficult pregnancy circumstances,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tim Garrison. “Our clients have already expended exorbitant time and financial resources trying to comply with the unreasonable demands made by Washington’s attorney general and we urge the court to swiftly halt his unlawful actions.”

The information and documentation demanded by the civil investigative demands is so expansive—and only limited in time by the arbitrary date of January 1, 2010—that they would sweep up massive amounts of information and confidential internal communications and documents that are unrelated to the attorney general’s stated purpose for the investigation, or beyond the statute of limitations. Moreover, as the lawsuit notes, Obria Group and Obria Medical Groups PNW appear to be singled out as targets of this investigation, notwithstanding the fact that dozens of other organizations operating in Washington also obtain similar sensitive client information.

The lawsuit explains that such unreasonably overbroad, invasive, selective, and burdensome investigative demands violate the pro-life organizations’ rights protected by the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and should stop.

Obria Group and Obria Medical Groups PNW are Christian pro-life nonprofits that provide medical, educational, and other services to meet the physical, mental, spiritual, and social needs of pregnant women, mothers, and fathers in a manner consistent with their view that unborn life is valuable and deserving of care and protection.

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Obria Group v. Ferguson, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Tacoma Division.

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