Atheist Group Sues Wisconsin Officials for Violating Open Records Law December 18, 2014

Atheist Group Sues Wisconsin Officials for Violating Open Records Law

Back in July, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed an open records request with Wisconsin state officials asking how they planned to implement the law following the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling.

[Plaintiff and FFRF attorney Patrick] Elliott made a series of open records requests of the Office of the Commissioner after a reported agency decision that Wisconsin’s contraceptive mandate, known as the Contraceptive Equity Law, would no longer be enforced because it was preempted by the June 30 Hobby Lobby ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

FFRF and many other observers disagreed, since the Religious Freedom Restoration Act under which the ruling was decided applies only to the federal government, not states.

Elliott asked for specific documents regarding how state officials communicated with each other regarding contraceptive coverage.

What he eventually got back were just a handful of documents that didn’t even come close to fulfilling the whole request. That’s illegal, says FFRF, and they’re suing over this lack of transparency:

The law says responses must be provided “as soon as practicable and without delay.” FFRF charges that [the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance] violated numerous portions of the law and seeks an order directing the defendants to produce the requested records, award reasonable attorneys’ fees, damages of not less than $100, punitive damages and other actual costs.

“Let there be sunlight,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, who thanked the firm of McGillivray Westerberg & Bender for representing FFRF.

It’s the first lawsuit of its kind in FFRF’s history. So far, neither Governor Scott Walker nor members of his team have commented on this lawsuit publicly.

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