Supreme Court declines to intervene in gay lawyer’s suit against Christian charity… at least for now

The Supreme Court declined to intervene in a discrimination case involving a bisexual lawyer being denied a job opportunity with a Christian legal clinic, however, Justice Samuel Alito suggested that the court could still take up the case in the future.

The decision lets stand a lower court ruling to allow the lawsuit to move forward. Justice Alito penned the concurring opinion and was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, who was recently hospitalized after being diagnosed with an infection.

“Because of the interlocutory posture of this case, I concur in the denial of certiorari at this time,” Alito wrote. “But the day may soon come when we must decide whether the autonomy guaranteed by the First Amendment protects religious organizations’ freedom to hire co-religionists without state or judicial interference.”

He argued that the Supreme Court has “yet to confront whether freedom for religious employers to hire their co-religionists is constitutionally required.”

“To force religious organizations to hire messengers and other personnel who do not share their religious views would undermine not only the autonomy of many religious organizations but also their continued viability,” Alito said. “If States could compel religious organizations to hire employees who fundamentally disagree with them, many religious non-profits would be extinguished from participation in public life — perhaps by those who disagree with their theological views most vigorously.”

“Driving such organizations from the public square would not just infringe on their rights to freely exercise religion but would greatly impoverish our Nation’s civic and religious life,” he added.

Alito would then suggest that the Supreme Court could review the case at a later point.

“The Washington Supreme Court’s decision may warrant our review in the future, but threshold issues would make it difficult for us to review this case in this posture,” he wrote. “The state court did not address whether applying state employment law to require the Mission to hire someone who is not a co-religionist would infringe the First Amendment.”

The details of the case are explained here by Courthouse News Service:

The case concerns a lawyer, Matthew Woods, who applied for an open staff attorney position at a legal clinic operated by the Union Gospel Mission in Seattle. Though Woods had been volunteering with the clinic since his first year of law school, continuing such work for three years, he learned that his sexual orientation might be a barrier to him getting the job.

As a volunteer, Woods had signed a statement of faith that did not reference sexual orientation, but the employee handbook prohibits “homosexual behavior.” He asked the clinic’s director — who had previously encouraged him to apply — if being bisexual would be a problem, and the director said he would not be able to apply for the position now. Woods applied anyway and his application was rejected.

 

Woods’ attorney, Denise Diskin, vowed to push on with the legal challenge of the mission’s hiring practices, The Hill reported.

“Discrimination does not belong in social services, and we are excited to begin the process of confirming that LGBTQ+ people are just as qualified as anyone else to provide support and help to vulnerable people in their communities,” Diskin said in a statement.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney John Bursch, who’s representing the Seattle mission, was encouraged by Alito’s opinion.

“Courts have consistently recognized that a religious organization’s purpose will be undermined if the government forces it to hire those who do not share and live out the group’s beliefs,” Bursch said in an emailed statement, according to The Hill.

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