Americans United for Separation of Church and State today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt a fact-based framework under Title VII for determining whether an employee’s request for religious accommodations at work creates excessive burdens on coworkers and customers.
In an amicus brief filed today in the Groff v. DeJoy case, Americans United urged the court to affirm that the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals properly considered the burdens and hardships that the request imposed on the U.S. Postal Service and its workers. Gerald Groff was not a full-time, career letter carrier, but a part-time carrier hired specifically to work flexible hours and cover weekend and holiday shifts at a 4-person post office in Pennsylvania. Over 14 months, Groff refused to show up for 24 Sunday shifts due to his religious beliefs. This led other employees – nearly all church-going Christians – to resign, transfer, file grievances or cover for him while he watched, as he admitted, NASCAR after church on Sundays.
Groff’s legal team includes First Liberty Institute and the Independence Law Center, Christian Nationalist organizations that are part of a billion-dollar shadow network behind nationwide litigation that seeks to undermine church-state separation.
“Our civil rights laws rightly require religious accommodations for workers, which is especially important for religious minorities whose rights and customs might not be respected in the workplace,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. “But religious freedom does not mean we can shift the burden of practicing our faith onto other people. Religious freedom has never been a license to harm others, in employment or any other facet of life.
“This case is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Laser warned. “Christian Nationalist legal groups are litigating cases like this as part of their crusade to secure privilege for those who share their narrow religious beliefs – at the cost of everyone else’s religious freedom. Once upon a time the Supreme Court prioritized religious-freedom cases aimed at protecting the rights of religious minorities who are marginalized in a predominantly Christian society. But the Christian Nationalist groups litigating this case are hoping to use it to extend the recent pattern of the current court granting special favor to the majority religion at the expense of all others.
“We need a national recommitment to the separation of church and state if we’re to uphold this country’s promise of freedom and equality for all of us.”
The brief was joined by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. It was authored by attorneys Joshua A. Matz, Carmen Iguina Gonzalez, James Santel, Selena Kitchens and Disha Verma of the law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP; AU attorneys Bradley Girard, litigation counsel, and Alex J. Luchenitser, associate vice president and associate legal director; and Lambda Legal attorneys Karen L. Loewy, senior counsel and director of constitutional law practice, and Gregory R. Nevins, senior counsel and Employment Fairness Project director.
A copy of the brief is available here.
Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more atwww.au.org.