- Ryan Anderson, The Heritage Foundation
Recent legal developments ranging from Supreme Court decisions to administrative actions have raised significant issues about the balance between religious liberties and prohibitions against discrimination. To what extent must an individual’s right to religious freedom yield to the state’s interest in protecting individuals against discrimination? Does the Free Exercise Clause extend beyond one’s home or church?
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recently issued a report that appears to tilt in favor of nondiscrimination over religious liberty. What does this portend for the future of religious liberty?
Mr. Gregory S. Baylor of Alliance Defending Freedom discussed current and future challenges to the religious freedom of faith-based institutions of higher education, with a special focus on the ongoing debate over California Senate Bill 1146. Earlier versions of SB1146 would have significantly curtailed longstanding religious freedom protections in state anti-discrimination law, thereby exposing faith-based schools to liability for discrimination on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity in student and employee relations. The bill's prime sponsor recently removed its most controversial provisions, but he indicated that a similar bill may be proposed in the next legislative session.
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) ballot initiative, which extends to housing & employment, has been described as an expansive LGBT anti-discrimination measure. The Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the new Pastor Protection Act are intended to provide rights of conscience protection and some assurance of employment accommodation for religious objectors, in light of initiatives like HERO and the anti-discrimination ordinance in San Antonio. After the Supreme Court Obergefell v. Hodges decision, more and more states will face the conundrum encountered by states like Indiana, Kentucky, and now Texas, where the recently affirmed LGBT constitutional privacy interest is in tension with state and federal RFRA laws and other constitutional religious objector protections. Will states that desire to carve out religious conviction protections be eclipsed by the momentum of locally based anti-discrimination measures? Do federal laws provide sufficient public office and private party religious expression protection?
Former US Attorney for Minnesota, Rachel Paulose, explains the issues in dispute before the Supreme Court in EEOC v. Abercrombie in which a 17-year-old Muslim applicant alleges employment discrimination when Abercrombie refused to hire her as a "model" because of her religious head-covering. Abercrombie denies the allegation.
As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.