AHA News |  

AHA Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief Opposing Employment Discrimination Law Exemption for Religious Organizations

(Washington, D.C., August 8, 2011)  The Appignani Humanist Legal Center has filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the American Humanist Association and other allied organizations with the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court is hearing an appeal of a case that turns on the question of whether religious organizations have a constitutional right to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age or disability in violation of employment laws. 

“The Supreme Court has made clear that the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution does not give religious defendants a special right to violate any law that they feel infringes in some way on their freedom of religion,” said Bill Burgess, attorney and legal coordinator of the American Humanist Association’s legal arm, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “We are all equally required to comply with the law, secular and religious alike, and this includes federal statutes banning employment discrimination. These laws embody and protect a critical and hard-won democratic value: equality for all Americans.”

The special religious exemption at issue in this case, called the “ministerial exception” by those lower courts that have adopted it, has never been considered by the Supreme Court. The right of religious employers, such as churches and related institutions, to require that employees to be of the same religion as their employer is not at issue in this case.   

The amicus brief argues that recognizing the ministerial exception would place religious institutions above the law, unjustly denying to their employees their day in court when they have been subject to illegal discrimination by their employer. The brief also argues that courts themselves violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection of the laws to all, when they act to throw out an employment discrimination case against a religious institution because in so doing they become complicit in the employer’s discrimination by denying its victim any legal remedy.

“Our courts should have no role in protecting illegal discriminatory conduct. Their purpose instead is to act as a fair, secular tribunal to determine whether an employee has had his or her legal rights violated and to provide the justice due if they have been,” said Burgess. 

Arguments in the case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, will be heard by the Supreme Court in early October. 

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center is a project of the American Humanist Association that provides legal assistance to defend the constitutional rights of secular Americans by challenging violations of the separation of church and state guaranteed by the Establishment Clause of the Constitution and seeking equal rights for humanists, atheists and other freethinkers.

The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.

###

American Humanist Association

Carroll County: A Small Maryland Community Gets Big Attention for All the Wrong...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Matthew Bulger, the AHA's legislative associate, reports on our first congressio...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

We're happy to welcome a new chapter, Washington DC, Atheists, Humanists and Agn...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Check out some photos from yesterday's congressional briefing on humanist celebr...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Our first congressional briefing was a success! The room was completely packed w...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Wonder Works Day Camp in Moscow, Idaho has begun! The first day was a huge succe...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The briefing on military chaplaincy has begun.

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Today, the American Humanist Association will be hosting our first Congressional...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Here is a video from Harvard's Making Caring Common Project. 5 Ways to Raise M...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Why the Way We Live is More Important. Get TheHumanist.com by email once a week...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Hey, have a laugh! http://hmn.st/1sFRZ33 Get TheHumanist.com by email once a we...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

No matter how right or how wrong, religion can not establish morality for the ma...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

I have come across this many times. While this topic may not be important to all...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Jesus Cones! A new way to violate church-state separation, in Gwinnett County, G...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Well this is rad! AHA Board Member Herb Silverman is featured in this short (10...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

It may seem silly, maybe even a blatant mockery, but if you really think about i...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela!

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

A Blessing in Disguise for Atheists? Check out AHA Legal Director David Niose's...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

This is a very interesting interactive chart explaining bible contradictions, sh...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Have you seen the new FYI Network show Married At First Sight? Tell us what you...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Vaccination Exception; God doesn't want me to receive vaccines... Luis Gran...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

With Corporations becoming "people", they will obviously be exploring religion.....

9 days ago

American Humanist Association

An Invocation for Everyone: What the Secular Invocation in Greece, N.Y., Means f...

9 days ago