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A Sermon on Religious Beliefs and the Courts
In reviewing requests for religious exemptions, EEOC complaints, and employer and institutional responses we have been appalled at the invasion of privacy. Files are being created by employers, educators, and government bureaucrats (“They”) that detail the intimate relationship our clients have with God. They have committed a Constitutional sin.
They often argue our clients’ religious beliefs are not religious. Who are they to judge?
The meaning of “religion” under Title VII (discrimination law) often requires resort to First Amendment cases.
In the First Amendment context, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that “The determination of what is a ‘religious’ belief or practice is more often than not a difficult and delicate task.” Thomas v. Review Bd. Of Ind. Emp’t. Sec. Div., 450 U.S. 707, 714 (1991). Thomas addressed a conscientious objector that found that making weapons violated his religious beliefs, but that making the steel for the weapons didn’t. Thomas held that “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection. Id., at 714. Thomas explained that “it is not for us to say that the line [Thomas] drew was an unreasonable one.” Id., at 715.
In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 573 U.S. 682, 725 (2014), the court reaffirmed the Thomas holding, stating “…it is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial. Instead, our ‘narrow function…in this context is to determine’ whether the line drawn reflects ‘an honest conviction.’” Recently, in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, 141 S. Ct. 1868, 1876 (2021), the court approved and followed the Thomas holding that religious beliefs need not be comprehensible or logical to others.
They ignore these rulings by arguing that beliefs are not religious. We have seen them rely on cases from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals based on Africa v. Com. Of Pa., 662 F.2d 1025 (3rd Cir. 1981), superseded by Thomas. They argue that belief that one’s body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit is a “vague and generic assertion” lacking a “comprehensive system of beliefs about fundamental or ultimate matters.”
This tactic invites the assessment of the religious quality of beliefs precluded by the U.S. Supreme Court.
For Christians, to respond, it would be necessary to explain what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit. Before his departure after the resurrection, he told the apostles he had more to say than they could bear, and he would send a Counselor to guide us into all truth. Belief in the Holy Spirit as a guide to all truth would involve a fundamental basis for a comprehensive system of beliefs. It may seem vague, but it is all-encompassing. And it would certainly cover the realm of what is medically true.
They also frequently overlook that Covid injections have a connection with aborted fetal cells and that our clients do not want to be involved with the destruction of innocent life—per guidance from the Holy Spirit. Such guidance would also cover the biblical admonition to keep one’s body holy.
As a matter of Supreme Court precedent and practical wisdom, their invitation to debate religion should be rejected.
The only legal question is whether beliefs are sincere.