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

Washington Post illustration by Herblock from 1963. Still an unsettled issue......

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Our lawsuit challenging 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance is trending on F...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

A major newspaper in New Jersey. The Star-Ledger, published an editorial in supp...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Did you catch Roy Speckhardt's interview on Fox and Friends this morning? Watch...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Don't miss it! AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt will be on Fox and Friends...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Pledge of Allegiance without the use of "Under God" did not cause harm to t...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Great News! Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island just issued a proclamation r...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

A great video for Earth Day! Isaac Asimov discusses saving the planet for future...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Responding to reporters this morning as the AHA's latest case gets national atte...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Lots of press coverage this morning on our New Jersey lawsuit challenging 'under...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Earth Day Everyone! Be kind to your Earth. It's where you live!

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Congratulations to Ventura County, California for now officially recognizing May...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Taken from a 1940's Justice Society Of America comic before "Under God" was adde...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association has filed lawsuit against “Under God” in the P...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The 2014 American Atheists Conference was awesome! Check out pictures of the Ame...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday Everyone!

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Humanist Poll! http://thehumanist.com/arts_entertainment/culture/your-humanist-...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Announcing our 2014 AHA Annual Conference Keynote Speaker, Professor Max Tegmark...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Have you had this problem? The Ethical Dilemma: My Son Sends Me E-Mails Signed...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Hurry! Going to the AHA annual conference in Philly? May 5th is the last day to...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Rules Are for Schmucks: Darwin Award Nominee by Luis Granados. http://thehumani...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Cartoon History of Humanism Episode Three: The Archpoet, 12th-Century Gang...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Throwback Thursday! The January/February, 1989 issue of the Humanist magazine...

7 days ago