Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, and religion. The Supreme Court on Monday, however, decided to amend this federal law. It ruled that the term “sex” should be read to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Because of this ruling, many Christian leaders fear religious liberty may be in grave danger.
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that it is unlawful to fail to hire or fire someone based on their LGBT identity. Justice Neil Gorsuch, a conservative, said “sex” includes those who are homosexual or transgender.
“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear,” wrote Gorsuch.
“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics Commission of the SBC, adamantly disagrees with the decision. He criticized the court for its interpretation of “sex” after Congress “repeatedly voted against” this definition. In addition, he believes the ruling will increase lawsuits from churches.
“The ruling… will have seismic implications for religious liberty, setting off potentially years of lawsuits and court struggles, about what this means, for example, for religious organizations with religious convictions about the meaning of sex and sexuality,” he wrote on his website.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said the court’s ruling “poses a grave threat to religious liberty.” In fact, he said it was “sad” that the judges redefined the meaning of the word “sex.”
“Allowing judges to rewrite the Civil Rights Act to add gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes pose a grave threat to religious liberty. We’ve already witnessed in recent years how courts have used the redefinition of words. [They use them] as a battering ram to crush faith-based businesses and organizations.”
Despite some leaders’ concerns, other religious organizations aren’t as worried. Gorsuch did write that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “might supersede Title VII’s commands in appropriate cases.”
John Bursch, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, believes Gorsuch’s comments pertaining to religious liberty were a “silver lining.”
Additionally, First Liberty Institute President Kelly Shackelford Gorsuch’s words regarding religious freedom were encouraging.
“We are grateful that the Supreme Court was clear… that this federal statute does not overrule peoples’ religious freedoms. We will find out… whether this is a hollow promise or a truthful assurance that religious liberty… will be protected.”