On March 17, 2015, the a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court of Georgia ruled unanimously that the denial of unemployment benefits to a Seventh-day Adventist who was fired for refusing to work on Saturdays was unconstitutional.
Is a second Hobby Lobby case in the works? Meggan Sommerville is a sixteen-year Hobby Lobby employee in Aurora, Illinois who has been denied access to the store’s restroom because she is transgendered. Sommerville underwent legal gender transition in 2010 but has not yet had gender-reassignment surgery.
Most business owners set up corporations as legal alter-egos to avoid being held personally responsible if their businesses get sued, but in this case, the employers (in Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood, and Mardel) are saying that their corporations can still manifest the owners’ religious beliefs even if it comes at the potential expense of their employees. The Supreme Court agrees.
By Michael Peabody – On March 25, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores (transcript and audio). According to a number of court pundits, the court is expected to split with four justices on each side and the deciding vote is predicted to fall to Anthony Kennedy. Perfectly projecting the Court’s decision is not much easier than predicting a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket, but here are some potential outcomes for the case.
Arizona Bill SB 1062 is on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk where she is expected to sign it, veto it, or ignore it and let it become law by default within the next few days. This bill modifies Arizona’s 1999 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to permit business owners to deny service to gay customers, or potentially members of any other group, so long as they are doing it because of the religious beliefs of the owners. SB 1062 could potentially cause more harm than good.
By Michael Peabody – Parties to these kinds of disputes should be well-served if they cooperatively seek solutions by identifying and respecting those specific personal areas which are non-negotiable and cordoning them off, while respecting the freedom of the areas in between where both sides must intersect. Identifying and preserving these areas of respect and finding opportunities for accommodation is not an easy process in today’s ideologically divided world, but the results will be much more profitable for both sides than engaging in perpetual conflict in the public arena. At the same time, the religious rights of the participants on both sides to belief and practice would be honored and protected.
The United States Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on the Hobby Lobby case for March 25, 2014. According to SCOTUSBlog, the issue is: “Whether the [RFRA], which provides that the government ‘shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion’ unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest,…
By Stephen N. Allred – Ultimately, 2013 was a rough year for Christians in many parts of the world who were harassed, raped, murdered and persecuted on account of their faith. In comparison, American Christians, though they faced some challenges, fared rather well.
By Robert J. Ray – Realistically, can a government allow every employer to customize the rules without descending into administrative chaos? Justice Antonin Scalia argued in Oregon v. Smith that one’s religious beliefs don’t negate the need to comply with valid laws.
On the other hand, freedom of religion is a crucial principle that must be defended. But how far?
Washington state law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees in compensation or terms or conditions of employment because of age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, national origin, veteran status, or disability. This case raises the issue of whether a failure to make reasonable accommodation for an employee’s sincere religious beliefs is implied in the statute.