COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – Attorney General Alan Wilson has joined a coalition of 17 states to file a memorial to the United States Supreme Court in support of religious freedom from the Union Gospel Mission in Seattle.
The faith-based charity is seeking a review of a recent Washington State Supreme Court ruling denying the faith-based charity the right to hire employees who share its faith.
“The right to the free exercise of religion clearly protects the right of a religious nonprofit organization to hire people who share the religious faith of the group,” said Attorney General Wilson. “If a job seeker is not hired because they disagree with the faith of the religious group, the government cannot punish the church or nonprofit organization for their decision based on faith. This point has never been controversial, nor challenged by a court until now.
Attorneys General argue that the Washington Supreme Court ignored history and precedent to deny a religious nonprofit organization’s right to only hire employees who share its faith. And the move is just the latest warning that previously unchallenged religious freedoms risk being eroded by a growing wave of religious intolerance.
The confusion generated by such decisions encourages governments to further infringe upon religious freedoms. This is why these attorneys general are urging the court to take the Gospel Mission case and provide the clarity needed to protect religious organizations from illegal government intrusions.
Wilson and colleagues argue that the Washington Supreme Court erred in its ruling that First Amendment protections extend only to hiring decisions related to ministers and not to all employees of religious organizations.
The history and long-standing Supreme Court rulings relating to church autonomy all support the proposition that religiously based employment decisions of a religious nonprofit organization are protected.
“Most Americans still recognize that our nation is a nation built on the promise of religious freedom and that this promise allows religious groups to select their employees based on religion. But the confusion sown by decisions like the one at issue here erodes this shared understanding and encourages actors within government and beyond to go further. The Supreme Court, by making explicit what is implicit in its previous decisions, can and must put an end to this deleterious process. In doing so, the Court will preserve both a space for open and in-depth debate between defenders of old and new rights, and will ensure that religious organizations and individuals are afforded appropriate protection as they seek to teach. the principles that are so fulfilling and so essential to their lives and beliefs.
Attorney General Wilson was joined by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who led the coalition, and Attorneys General from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas , Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia by filing the amicus brief in the Supreme Court of United States September 2, 2021.
You can read the amicus brief here.
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