Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Texas Church Group Wants Exemption From LGBT Bias Laws - Law360

Texas Church Group Wants Exemption From LGBT Bias Laws

From Law360:

"Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the city of Austin's anti-employment discrimination statute illegally block religious employers from denying jobs and benefits to gay and transgender workers, a Texas-based church group alleges in two new federal suits, one of which is styled as a proposed class action."

I see this as the latest manufactured attempt to make inroads into and weaken anti-discrimination law. By using sympathetic appeals to religious freedom, which should properly be respected for churches, these cases go far beyond respect for churches. The lawsuit claims that the law forces churches to hire priests in violation of religious law, which is not true. Instead, they seek to immunize any business owner who claims religion as a reason to discriminate against LGBT people. Here's my law review article on the subject:

Here's the rest of the story from Law360: "The U.S. Pastor Council, a coalition of conservative churches, on Saturday hit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the city of Austin with lawsuits claiming the laws violate the U.S. Constitution and state and federal religious freedom laws by forcing religious employers to hire gay and transgender workers." "The EEOC refuses to acknowledge that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] and the First Amendment limit its ability to enforce Title VII against employers who object to homosexual and transgender behavior on religious grounds," the group argues in its suit against the EEOC. "And the EEOC readily brings lawsuits against Christian businesses that oppose these behaviors without regard to their rights under the RFRA and the First Amendment."

"Hotze Health and Wellness Center, a Christian-owned, Houston-area health center is also on the EEOC suit and proposes to represent a nationwide class of religious-affiliated businesses, and the council proposes to represent a nationwide class of churches. The health center is not on the Austin suit." "

The council's suit against the EEOC challenges the agency's interpretation of Title VII's ban on employment discrimination "because of ... sex" as protecting transgender and gay workers. The EEOC said Title VII covered transgender workers in 2012 and gay workers in 2015, and has brought several bias suits against employers based on those reads of the law."

"The U.S. Supreme Court has read into Title VII a "ministerial exception" that puts religious hires out of the law's reach — allowing Catholic churches to deny priest positions to women, for example — but that exception is "no help to Christian-owned businesses that oppose homosexuality and transgender behavior on religious grounds" and doesn't cover nonministerial church jobs, such as secretary positions, the council said."

"Similarly, the portion of Austin's employment discrimination law blocking employers from discriminating against workers based on their "sexual orientation [or] gender identity," violates the Constitution and Texas law, the council says in its suit against the city. The law includes exemptions letting church-run schools or other religious employers hire only workers who adhere to their religion, but does not similarly accommodate "churches that refuse to hire women, practicing homosexuals or transgendered people as clergy," the council says." "The ordinance allows a Catholic church to require its priests to be Catholic, but it forbids the church to exclude Catholic women, Catholic homosexuals or Catholic transgendered people from the priesthood," the council says." ....

The cases are U.S. Pastor Council et al. v. EEOC et al., case number 4:18-cv-00824, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas and U.S. Pastor Council v. City of Austin et al., case number 1:18-cv-00849, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

See this link: