Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, ruled Oct. 31 that Christian churches and Christian-owned, for-profit businesses with sincerely held religious beliefs are not subject to LGBTQ discrimination claims.
Braidwood Management Inc., which operates three health care facilities in the Houston area; and Bear Creek Church, in the Fort Worth suburb of Keller; sued the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission in response to last year’s Supreme Court opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that LGBTQ persons are protected under the anti-discrimination provisions of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
In that decision, the Supreme Court admitted that granting Title VII protection to LGBTQ individuals would affect some employers’ religious liberty but said, “how these doctrines protecting religious liberty interact with Title VII are questions for future cases.”
Bear Creek and Braidwood asked the federal district court to declare that they and similar organizations “are permitted to refrain from employing people who engage in conduct that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs and First Amendment protections.”
The judge ruled that because Bear Creek is a church, it is exempt from Title VII and so may conduct employment policies in keeping with its religious beliefs.
He said that because Braidwood is not a church, it is not exempt from Title VII but is protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment, and thus may also make employment decisions consistent with its religious beliefs.
Above: The Eldon B. Mahon United States Courthouse in Fort Worth, Texas.
Photo: Rene Gomez/WikiCommons