Two conservative justices on the Supreme Court this week voiced their support for the hiring rights of religious organizations, arguing that such organizations should not be compelled to employ individuals who do not share their religious views.
“To force religious organizations to hire messengers and other personnel who do not share their religious views would undermine not only the autonomy of many religious organizations but also their continued viability,” Justice Sam Alito argued in a statement he and Justice Clarence Thomas issued Monday.
The comments from Alito and Thomas came as the court declined to take up a dispute involving the Seattle Union Gospel Mission, a Christian nonprofit that was sued after refusing to hire an LGBT applicant to serve in its legal aid clinic.
In an original ruling on the matter, King County Superior Court Judge Karen Donohue dismissed the suit filed against the mission by bisexual attorney Matt Woods, claiming the nonprofit was within its rights to refuse to hire Woods since, as a religious group, it was exempt from the state’s anti-discrimination law regarding sexual orientation.
But last year, the Washington Supreme Court reversed the ruling and sent the case back down to the lower court, specifically to review whether the nonprofit’s religious exemption applies to all positions of employment.
TheBlaze reported at the time that the ruling could open the door to forcing religious organizations to hire LGBT individuals and other employees who do not share their beliefs. In their Monday statement, Alito and Thomas seemed to agree that such a ruling would not only “undermine” the autonomy of religious organizations but could also lead to their extinction.
“If states could compel religious organizations to hire employees who fundamentally disagree with them, many religious non-profits would be extinguished from participation in public life — perhaps by those who disagree with their theological views most vigorously,” the justices warned.
That, they said, would not only infringe on the groups’ rights to freely exercise religion but would “greatly impoverish our nation’s civic and religious life.”
Though the justices agreed that the case had not yet reached a ripe enough stage for the high court to grant a review, they foreshadowed a future ruling in the dispute.
“Because of the interlocutory posture of this case, [we] concur in the denial of certiorari at this time,” Alito wrote. “But the day may soon come when we must decide whether the autonomy guaranteed by the First Amendment protects religious organizations’ freedom to hire co-religionists without state or judicial interference.”