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

Corporation of Presiding Bishop of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. Amos involved an Establishment Clause challenge to a provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Generally, Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. At issue in this case was a provision of Title VII that specifically exempted religious employers from the prohibition of religious discrimination in employment decisions. A group of employees who worked in non-religious positions at a church-run gymnasium were fired because they were not members of the church. The employees brought a suit alleging that they were discriminated against on the basis of their religion, and that the exemption in Title VII for religious organizations violated the Establishment Clause. Applying the three-part test developed in Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Supreme Court concluded that the exemption was constitutional even when applied to secular employees. First, the Court found that the purpose of the exemption was to prevent government interference with the ability of religious organizations to define and carry out their religious missions, which is a valid legislative purpose. Second, the Court determined that the law did not have the prohibited effect of advancing or inhibiting religion because it merely allowed churches themselves to advance religion; to violate the Establishment Clause, a government policy must itself somehow actively advance or inhibit religion. Finally, the Court held that the exemption did nothing to promote government entanglement with religion, but rather was enacted expressly to prevent such involvement. Thus, the exemption did not violate the Establishment Clause.

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