Agudath Israel Urges Supreme Court To Protect Religious Organizations’ Employment Policies From Government Interference

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Agudath Israel of America has joined an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief asking the United States Supreme Court to hear the case of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission v. Matthew Woods. The case involves whether a religious organization should be free from judicial interference with its ability to make employment decisions that are in conformance with its religious tenets. The brief, submitted by a broad coalition of religious organizations, argues that that the First Amendment broadly protects religious employment decisions by religious organizations, and that a religious organization should be free from judicial interference with its ability to make employment decisions that are in conformance with its religious tenets.

This brief is in response to a previous ruling in the case by the Washington State Supreme Court; that court had ruled that the exemption from the state’s nondiscrimination laws for religious non-profits only applied specifically to employment decisions involving “ministers” under what the U.S. Supreme Court has called the “ministerial exception.” The brief argues that the autonomy of religious institutions in employment decisions is not limited to those performing ministerial functions, under U.S. Supreme Court decisions and those of many other courts. Rather, under the church autonomy doctrine, the First Amendment provides much broader protection to religious institutions

Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Government Affairs and Washington Director, stated, “We hope that the Supreme Court will agree to hear this important case and clarify that the First Amendment protects religious institutions broadly from judicial and governmental interference in regard to their employment decisions.”