One of those reminders comes in the form of business owners who decline to serve others in one way or another, based on their personal religious beliefs (“Using Religion to Discriminate”). They engage in discrimination citing religious freedom as the basis of their proclivities. Discrimination on the basis of religion is not a new phenomenon. In fact, our country is riddled with examples of religiously based discrimination throughout our history. This sample research paper examines various types of religious discrimination still present in America and is available from the custom writing services at Ultius.
Religious Discrimination in America
One of the fundamental principles given to citizens of the United States in the Bill of Rights is the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (US 1776). It is an unalienable right ensured to all Americans by the Declaration of Independence, a right our government was created to protect. In addition, the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees us freedom of religious expression (US Const. amend. I), while the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits discrimination in many areas of life, among other things, on the basis of religion (US Const. amend. XIV, sec. 1). The rights are so intrinsic to our existence as Americans, we often forget that they even exist. Yet, periodically we are reminded, because our citizens fail to comprehend the true meaning and beauty of our rights, and the balance required to ensure those benefits are reaped by all.
Discrimination beyond racism
Many restaurants in the South declined serving Blacks because their religion did not believe in mixing of the races. Some religiously based academic institutions would not admit students who engaged in interracial dating (“Using Religion to Discriminate”). Now that most businesses and institutions recognize that it is not in their best interest to discriminate against Blacks, somehow they think they can discriminate against women or those in the LGBT community. Some recent cases give us insight into this disturbing paradigm.
Discrimination against women on the basis of religion
Emily Herx – In the case of Emily Herx, a teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School in Indiana, she was fired from her position when officials at the school discovered that she attempted to become pregnant using in vitro fertilization (IVF) (“Fired for My Family”). IVF is a method in which a woman’s eggs are taken from her ovaries, placed in a dish, and then is mixed with sperm. Herx, who already had a child, discovered she was unable to have another baby, so her doctor suggested IVF.
Her initial efforts were unsuccessful, so she considered trying a second time and asked her principal, who was aware of and was supportive of her initial attempt, for time off. The principal said that she would have to speak to the Monsignor, who called her an immoral sinner, and refused to renew her teaching contract (“Fired for My Family”). Herx, thereafter, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim against the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and ultimately filed a federal lawsuit alleging sex and disability discrimination. In 2014, a federal jury awarded Herx $1.9 million, after hearing the defense call her:
“a potential drug abuser, an emotional basket case and as someone who committed a sin so grave and immoral that no circumstances could justify it” with no mention of the fact that she had always received outstanding reviews (Green).
The Diocese argued that it was not that she wanted to become pregnant, but the method that she used and intended to use to accomplish that. On appeal in the U. S. District Court, Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. reduced the award from $1.9 million to $403,608.
Jane Doe – In a case similar to that of Herx, a Plaintiff named Jane Doe, to maintain her anonymity, worked for a Catholic school in Missouri, faced gender discrimination and was fired because she had become pregnant out of wedlock (Brandt-Young & Lee). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a complaint with the EEOC on behalf of Doe for sex discrimination. The litany of religious firings does not stop with these two cases.
Christa Dias – a teacher, was also fired from an Ohio religion-based school, facing discrimination in the educational system when it was determined that she used artificial insemination in order to have a child. She was awarded $171,000 after filing a federal lawsuit against the Archdiocese. Jarretta Hamilton, a Florida teacher was also fired from Southland Christian School on a morals violation. The 11th Circuit Court held Hamilton may file suit against the religious school (Brandt-Young & Lee).
Medical care cases of gender discrimination
Religious schools are not the only businesses attempting to violate individual rights based on religious arguments.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010) requires that health insurance plans cover contraception without requiring a co-pay from the insured (“Challenges to the Federal Contraceptive”).
The goal of the rule is to eliminate the discrimination that occurs regarding women’s health care versus men’s health care. The rule has been challenged by hundreds of for profit and non-profit organizations.
Attempts to placate both sides
Nonprofits that have objections to paying for the contraceptives are provided an accommodation. The accommodation requires that the organization give notice to insurers that they object, and the insurer would then be responsible for arranging and paying for the contraceptive costs independently. The goal of the accommodation is to address the needs of both the insured and the nonprofit, such that the insured is covered, and the nonprofit does not have to violate its viewpoint on religious grounds (“Challenges to the Federal Contraceptive”).
The accommodation was subsequently extended to for profits that were tightly held, with religious objections. The Supreme Court has determined it will hear cases on challenges to the accommodation rule, brought by employers who believe the rule itself is a burden and that it wrongfully protects religious practices in the workplace (“Challenges to the Federal Contraceptive”).
Discrimination against LGBT on the basis of religion
Medical care cases
Julea Ward – a student at Eastern Michigan State University, was dismissed from a school healthcare counseling program for refusing to work with a gay patient, in violation of the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics (Ward v. Wilbanks et al.). Ward stated that as a result of her religious beliefs, she would not be able to counsel any clients that wanted to discuss same-sex relationships or unmarried sexual relationships, despite the harm it might cause her prospective clients.
It was of particular note that Ward intended to become a high school counselor, and due to the harassment, and difficulty experienced by LGBT students, at a time when they would be reaching out for help and support, Ward’s perspective would be damaging to many students that she might encounter (Ward v. Wilbanks et al.) not to mention a trampling of hard fought gay rights. The trial court’s holding supported Ward’s dismissal from the university program. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, held there was some debate as to whether or not Ward was dismissed due to non-compliance with the code of ethics, and the case was remanded back to the District Court. The ACLU filed amicus curiae briefs championing the university (Ward v. Wilbanks et al.).
Guadalupe Benitez – In a denial of medical services case, Guadalupe Benitez was prevented from obtaining infertility treatment because she is a lesbian (Benitez v. North Coast). Doctors from North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group stated that due to their religious beliefs, they were not required to provide service to Benitez, as they might provide to a heterosexual client. The California State Supreme Court, determined, in a unanimous decision, that a business or medical facility cannot deny services to a patient in violation of the state of California’s civil rights law (“Benitez v. North Coast”).
Service cases of discrimination against LGBT couples
Similar to the race-based discrimination cases of the 1950s and 60s, some businesses believe that they do not have to provide services to members of the LGBT community because of the owner’s religious objections to same-sex relationships (“Using Religion to Discriminate”).
David Mullins and Charlie Craig – In 2012, David Mullins, Charlie Craig and his mother, shopped at Masterpiece Cake shop to purchase a cake for their wedding (“Charlie Craig and David Mullins”). The owner of the cake shop advised the party that because of his religious beliefs, it was store policy to refuse service to same-sex wedding participants. Colorado law on the issue was clear, no business could refuse service to someone based on marital status, sexual orientation, sex or race. Complaints were filed by Mullins and Craig with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD), stating that the cake shop was in violation of the law.
The CCRD determined that Masterpiece was in violation of the law and had illegally discriminated against the pair. The Colorado Office of Administrative Courts upheld the findings of the CCRD. On appeal, Masterpiece Cake shop filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission which ordered the company to change its policy, offer comprehensive training and to report to the court after the case on its efforts and actions, for the next two years. This finding was later upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals (“Charlie Craig and David Mullins”).
Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll – In Washington, Arlene’s Flowers refused to provide service to Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll, a gay couple who were getting married despite having provided service to them many times before (Ingersoll v Arlene’s Flowers). They were told that due to the owner’s beliefs, the florist company would not provide flowers for their wedding.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the couple, alleging that the florist violated the Washington Law against Discrimination and the Consumer Protection Act. The law prohibits discrimination even in the face of deeply held religious principles and supported the belief that gay marriage should be legal. The lower court held for the couple, and the florist appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, where it is now pending review (“Ingersoll v Arlene’s Flowers”).
Todd and Mark Wathen – It appears that many of the cases revolve around the topic of weddings. Todd and Mark Wathen attempted to locate a facility to host their civil union ceremony and provide a venue for guests to spend the night (“Mattoon Couple Challenge”). The couple contacted Beall Mansion Bed and Breakfast located in Alton, Illinois, and the Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast, located in Paxton. Both facilities refused to service them despite gay marriage having been legalized by the Supreme Court at this point. In one case they were subjected to a lecture on the errors of their ways, and told that:
“The Bible trumps Illinois law” (“Mattoon Couple Challenge”).
To add insult to injury, the Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast continued to harass the couple, by sending emails with Biblical quotes condemning their intentions, after the couple had no more communication with them. They were hurt and offended. The Wathen’s filed a complaint with the State of Illinois Human Rights Commission. The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits businesses from discriminating against members of the public based on practices including sexual orientation. The law requires that the public be served fairly and impartially (“Mattoon Couple Challenge”). In fact, Governor Quinn had just signed the Illinois’ Civil Union Law, allowing same-sex couples to marry.
The ultimate verdict is, if you want to discriminate against anyone, you should not work with the public. Religious sentiment does not give a person the right to violate an individual’s civil rights. The Timber Creek facility was fined $80,000 for violation of anti-discrimination law, yet the owner said that they would not change their policy (Rice). This antagonistic policy seems like an invitation for additional lawsuits and will hopefully serve as a warning to others. The final word is, we are all entitled to our beliefs, but there are many different people in this world. Choosing not to agree with the beliefs of another is your right, but just because someone is different, you do not have the right to mistreat them. Tolerance, love and understanding transcend faith.
“Benitez v. North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group.” Lambda Legal. n. d. Web. 2 May 2016. .
Brandt-Young, Christina , and Lee, Jenny. “Religion Isn’t a Free Pass to Discriminate Against Employees.” ACLU. 17 September 2012. Web. 2 May 2016. .
“Challenges to the Federal Contraceptive Coverage Rule.” ACLU. n. d. Web. 2 May 2016. .
“Charlie Craig and David Mullins v. Masterpiece Cakeshop.” ACLU. 13 August 2015. Web. 2 May 2016. .
“Fired for My Family.” ACLU. 18 September 2012. Web. 2 May 2016. .
Green, Rebecca S. “Jury sides with fired teacher.” Journal Gazette. JournalGazette.net. 20 December 2014. Web. 2 May 2016. .
“Ingersoll v Arlene’s Flowers.” ACLU. 15 February 2015. Web. 2 May 2016. .
“Mattoon couple challenge denial of services at two Illinois Bed and Breakfast facilities.” ACLU. 2 November 2011. Web. 2 May 2016. .
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. § 18001 et seq. (2010).
Rice, Mae. “Illinois Hotel Fined For Turning Away Same-Sex Couple Won’t Change Policy.” Chicagoist. Gothamist LLC.. 31 March 2016. Web. 2 May 2016. .
“Using Religion to Discriminate.” ACLU. n. d. Web. 2 May 2016. .
“Ward v. Wilbanks et al..” ACLU. 4 October 2011. Web. 2 May 2016. .