Supreme Court rejects Christian charity’s appeal in lawsuit
The US Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by a Christian charity asking judges to review a complaint filed against the organization’s refusal to hire a man in a same-sex relationship.
Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (SUGM) filed a petition with the Supreme Court last year regarding its ongoing legal battle with Matthew S. Woods, who had applied for an attorney position with the charity. in 2016, but was turned down because he was in a same-sex relationship.
In an order released Monday, the court denied SUGM’s application for a writ of certiorari, with Judge Samuel Alito issuing a statement with the order regarding the decision.
Joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, Alito argued that the Supreme Court “has yet to determine whether freedom for religious employers to hire their co-religionists is constitutionally required.”
“Because of the interlocutory position of this case, I agree with the denial of certiorari at this time,” Alito said. “But the day may soon come when we must decide whether the autonomy guaranteed by the First Amendment protects the freedom of religious organizations to hire co-religionists without interference from the state or the judiciary.”
Alito went on to note that the state Supreme Court’s decision in the case “may warrant our review in the future, but threshold issues would make it difficult for us to review this case from this posture.”
Woods, a Christian by profession who volunteered at SUGM’s legal aid clinic while a law student, applied for a job as a lawyer in 2016.
SUGM refused to hire him due to their belief that Woods’ same-sex relationship violated Christian teaching, prompting Woods to file a lawsuit in November 2017.
In March 2021, the Washington Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling in favor of SUGM, then sent the case back to the lower court to determine whether the charity was eligible for a ministerial exemption.
Justice Barbara A. Madsen wrote the majority opinion for the state Supreme Court, saying the charity was not “a church or religious entity primarily responsible for the spiritual lives of its members.”
“Additionally, Woods sought employment at SUGM as a lawyer specifically, not as a religious minister or teacher, and there is no indication that religious training is necessary for the position of lawyer,” Madsen said. .
“It is best left to the trial court to determine whether staff lawyers qualify as ministers and, therefore, whether Woods’ claim of discrimination under [Washington’s Law Against Discrimination] must be prohibited.
SUGM is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that has successfully argued religious freedom cases before the Supreme Court.
“In our view, religious organizations have the right to hire those who share their beliefs without being punished by the government. In fact, six federal appeals courts have already recognized this principle,” ADF legal counsel Jake Warner said in a previous interview with The Christian Post.
“But the Supreme Court of Washington State is the only one to oppose this principle, and it is important enough for us to believe that the Supreme Court must clarify that the First Amendment protects the right of religious organizations to decide who can share their religious message with the public. ”