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Corporation of Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. Amos

    Brief Fact Summary. The Appellee, Amos (Apellee), was fired from a job at the Mormon Church after he failed to become a certified member of the Church. He claims a federal statute that permits religious institutions to discriminate on the basis of religion violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. As applied to the nonprofit activities of religious employers, Section:702 of the Civil Rights Act (the Act) is rationally related to the legitimate purpose of alleviating significant governmental interference with the ability of religious organizations to define and carry out their religious missions.

    Facts. The Appellee was a janitor at a nonprofit facility open to the public and run by the Mormon Church. The Appellee was fired because he failed to qualify for a certificate stating he was a member of the church and that he was eligible to attend its temples because he observed the church’s standards involving church attendance, tithing and abstinence from caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. The district court held that Section:702 of the Act, allowing a secular nonprofit organization to discriminate in employment on the basis of religion, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) used the Lemon test to check the constitutionality of the exemption of religious organizations from religious discrimination laws. “Under the Lemon analysis, it is a permissible legislative purpose to alleviate significant governmental interference with the ability of religious organizations to define and carry out their relig
    ious missions.” The state’s interest in guarding against interference in religion allows it to not require religious organizations to strictly follow laws that apply to others. The exemption is rationally related to this end that it seeks to further.

    Issue. Whether the application of a provision of Section:702 of the Act that exempts religious organizations from Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination in employment on the basis of religion, to the secular nonprofit activities of religious organizations violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution?

    Held. Reversed.
    Concurrence.
    The concurring judge stated his concurrence with the judgment rests on the fact that these cases involve a challenge to the application of the Section: 702 of the Act’s categorical exemption to the activities of a nonprofit organization.
    The opinion of the Supreme Court suggests that the effect of the Lemon test is not implicated as long as the government action can be characterized as allowing religious organizations to advance religion, in contrast to government action directly advancing religion. There is little significance to the Supreme Court’s observation that it was the Church rather than the government that penalized the Appellee’s refusal to adhere to Church doctrine. The inquiry should be whether the government’s purpose is to endorse religion and whether the statute actually conveys a message of endorsement.

    Discussion. As applied to the nonprofit activities of religious employers, Section:702 the Act of is rationally related to the legitimate purpose of alleviating significant governmental interference with ability of religious organizations to define and carry out their religious miss


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