US Supreme Court rules federal law protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination

Gorsuch and Roberts joining the liberal wing in a 6-3 decision.

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I am hoping the Christian community can parse the difference between the religious and secular implications of this ruling. The court isn’t saying that Christians have to accept all sexuality as being consistent with Christian morals. All the court is saying is that people shouldn’t lose their job for being who they are.

One of my uncles is a dyed in the wool Christian conservative, and it absolutely stunned me when I heard him say that he supports gay rights and even gay marriage. He didn’t think that non-Christians should be forced to live by the rules of a religion they didn’t belong to. I really think the Christian and non-religious communities are starting to see eye to eye on this issue, and can find a peaceful common ground.

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Those of us employed in non-public higher ed are no doubt going to have to watch this closely. This is probably the trickiest topic for most Evangelical universities right now.

They are both a business (employer-employee relationships, HR, etc.) and a religious community, so where do they fit? They are a public expression of religious belief and yet also in many ways secular institutions (same accreditation and educational standards, etc.). It’s not always easy to navigate the difference between being an educational arm of a religious organization (denomination, etc.) vs a tool for common good that originates out of or is sponsored by a religious organization. I do not envy those college presidents.

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Agreed. The courts need to spell out how this relates to the separation of church and state. I would assume that churches are exempt from this ruling, but I don’t know how private religious universities fit into it. As long as the university is non-profit and claims to be a religious organization I would assume they are exempt from this ruling as well.

I just skimmed through it, but the document below might be helpful:

There are a lot of laws and policies that churches are exempt from because of the 1st Amendment, and I would suspect this ruling would be included in those exemptions.

Churches have employer-employee relationships, HR, bank accounts, and the such. However, they are still exempt from many laws and policies. I think this is also part of the common ground between believers and non-believers. When we argue for a separation of church and state we mean it, and it should apply equally to both sides of the wall.

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I think it’s easier for churches and NGOs … however almost all Christian universities rely on federal student financial aid and are regulated through the federal Department of Education and state education boards. That means we are, round about, getting government (taxpayer) funds and are dependent on government rules. I can also see this ruling affecting the ongoing debates about how Title IX applies to LGBT students. If the government says “you can have your religious convictions, but you don’t get federal student aid” those universities will be essentially shut down.

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Here in Canada, where anti-discrimination laws have been extant for a while, religious colleges and universities are permitted to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, just like a church or other more clearly religious institution is. it all depends on whether the institution is considered a public service or business, which is not always entirely clear cut.

Right. For the most part, if the work is ‘secular’ like janitorial services, groundskeeping and etc., then one might run into problems. Clerics, advisors and those in charge of administration are typically exempted.

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When you start taking federal funds you are agreeing to play by those rules. I completely sympathize with Christian universities on this point, but those are the rules.

It is worth mentioning that this ruling was on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It isn’t a constitutional amendment. I think there is room for Congress to change parts of the law to exempt Christian universities if there is a will to do so.

The universities could go to the Christian community and ask for those funds.

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In the Canadian Context, looking at Trinity Western University, gives insight into how balancing Religious Freedom and Human rights can become problematic for Christian universities.

Rightly or wrongly, over time the Canadian courts seem to have moved from giving religious freedom “priority”, to giving other human rights priority when there is a conflict. This would probably roughly mirror the majority public opinion shifting in this direction as well.

I get it. I think it does make the implications of this type or ruling potentially further reaching.

Yeah … there is virtually no way for a university to survive with neither state funding (like public universities) nor federal financial aid (which also means federal loans, etc.).

I’m honestly not trying to argue for a particular outcome, just trying to say that it’s not so easy to always divide things nicely between religious and secular, public and private, etc. I do think finding some sort of common ground will be important as you pointed out.

Completely agree. It gets a bit messy when religious and government money is mixed in together. If a Christian university does hire a gay or transgender employee, will it be the end of the world? Could it instead be turned into a lesson on acceptance? Besides, how many gay or transgender people are going to want to work at Liberty University?

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I would say they better be open to hiring them in many jobs, such as in basic services. However some jobs meant to represent and communicate doctrinal beliefs are different.

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Absolutely. Perhaps there is a way to hire these positions so they sit under the umbrella of a church instead of the university. Just a thought.

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While how to deal with this decision in terms of employment practices might be the most immediate concern for some religious institutions, the more serious, maybe even existential, issue will be how churches that practice anti-gay discrimination (e.g.the biggest church of all) manage to carry on in the face of a social consensus that increasingly sees anti-gay discrimination as the equivalent of racism.

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I think there are many Evangelical schools that would lose significant existing student population and financial support (alumni/denominational donors) if they did. Of course I have no idea if they would potentially also gain students/support from those who would support the decision.

Well, it only takes one to bring the issue to a legal fight or to cause problems with “constituents”.

Which includes almost all faculty and staff at most institutions since they are “student facing”. You might be able to get around it to some degree by outsourcing to external contractors perhaps.

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First off, I completely respect @Jordan’s comments on this topic. It’s good to hear an honest and straightforward opinion from the Christian side of the discussion.

I am also reminded of the recent documentaries and shows about Mr. Rogers. Fred was a Presbyterian minister and devout man. He never used his show to overtly evangelize to kids, but no one would be shocked to hear that he was a Christian. This kind and devout man hired the actor Francois Clemmons to play a police officer on the show. Francois was gay, and Fred Rogers knew it. He did it anyway, and their friendship was important to both of them.

I think our modern times need some more Fred Rogers in them.

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But told him to stay in the closet and marry a woman

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Religions evolve and adapt, like populations of organisms, to encompass societal norms and morals. Or they go extinct. Like species, most religions have gone extinct.

A day will one day come(probably soon) when religions will start claiming credit for the emancipation of homosexuals from discrimination. We are already seeing some Christians claiming credit for veganism. I’m not joking.

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I venture to say that there are gay and transgender people working at Liberty University. They work in silence and fear about being “found out”.

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This seems just like what religious institutions were talking about decades ago with regard to interracial dating. Remember Bob Jones University case which took 30 years to adjudicate?