A federal judge has ruled that for-profit businesses when they operate on sincerely held religious beliefs are protected from liability for claims of discrimination by those who choose the LGBT lifestyles.
The company that filed the action, Braidwood, “has established Title VII places a substantial burden on its religious exercise, and defendants fail to meet the burden to show a compelling interest,” wrote the judge. “But even if their broad formulation of their interest in ‘preventing all forms of discrimination’ were sufficient, defendants have not selected the least restrictive means.
“Forcing a religious employer to hire, retain, and accommodate employees who conduct themselves contrary to the employer’s views regarding homosexuality and gender identity is not the least restrictive means of promoting that interest, especially when defendants are willing to make exceptions to Title VII for secular purposes.”
Bloomberglaw reported the case was decided just days ago by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Forth Worth.
The report explained the judge’s decision starts the process of resolving multiple questions left unaddressed by the Supreme Court’s decision in its Bostock case, where the justices granted anti-bias protections for sexual orientations and gender identity.
That decision was reached based on the belief that decades ago, when Congress was writing nondiscrimination law, the members, when they cited “sex,” intended that word to be understood to include transgenderism, gender identity and such.
The case was brought by Braidwood Management Inc., which operates Christian health-care businesses controlled by Dr. Stephen Hotze.
The ruling found the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment protect the company from the newly minted discrimination concepts the Supreme Court assigned to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Also, the judge said Bear Creek Bible Church and other religious nonprofits can escape liability for firing, refusing to hire, or taking other adverse job actions against LGBT workers under Title VII’s religious exemptions.
The judge explained, “In 2020, the Supreme Court that Title VII’s sex discrimination prohibition forbids employers from firing employees based on homosexuality or transgender status, because to do so is a form of discrimination based on sex. ”
But he said the opinion “left open the implications for religious liberties…”
The business owner and church then sued the Equal Employment Commission seeking declarations that the First Amendment and the RFRA “give plaintiffs the right to operate their churches and businesses in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs that homosexual behavior is immoral, and … any federal statute, executive order, or agency rule, policy, or regulatory guidance that infringes or burdens that right is unenforceable.”
LGBT activists have attempted to use anti-bias laws in recent years to attack faith organizations and faith-based companies, but the Supreme Court decided in its Hobby Lobby case that companies can operate based on faith principles.
O’Connor’s ruling found that workplace policies regarding sexual conduct, dress codes, and restrooms don’t violate Title VII. But he said the federal law can cover policies regarding bisexual conduct, “sex-reassignment surgery,” and hormone treatment.
The Washington Examiner explained the judge ordered, “The court holds that the Religious Business-Type Employer Class, and All Opposing Employer Class, are permitted to create and maintain codes of conduct that regulate the sexual conduct of their employees, to the extent that those policies do not target solely homosexual or transgender activities.”
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