Seattle‘s Union Gospel Mission, a Christian non-profit group that aids the homeless, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday after the Washington Supreme Court issued a decision that forced it to hire non-Christian employees.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled in Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission v. Woods that the Christian organization does not have a protected First Amendment right to hire employees whose beliefs align with its own, according to a press release from the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the Mission.
“Churches and religious organizations have the First Amendment right to hire those who share their beliefs without being punished by the government,” said John Bursch, ADF senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy.
The Supreme Court has established longstanding precedent that religious groups have the First Amendment right to outline employment and membership criteria.
“Courts have consistently recognized that a religious organization’s purpose will be undermined if the government forces it to hire those who do not subscribe to the group’s beliefs,” Bursch said.
The case began when Matthew Woods applied to be a lawyer for the Mission’s legal wing, “a position that involves talking with clients about Jesus Christ and attending worship services and prayer meetings in addition to providing legal advice.”
Woods did not meet the Mission’s religious requirements: he professed no Christian faith, no belief in Jesus Christ, no Church membership or attendance, and he did not provide the mandatory contact information for his pastor, since he did not have one.
The Mission rejected his application because it lacked the most basic requirements for the job and hired another applicant. Then, Woods sued the Mission.
One of Washington’s local courts dismissed the case in recognition that Christian groups have the right to exclusively hire Christians.
The Washington Supreme Court rejected hundreds of years of American law, tradition, and case precedent and decided to force religious groups to hire people who reject or even oppose their beliefs.
“The federal government and Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits have all recognized that the First Amendment protects religious nonprofits’ right to hire coreligionists,” reads the ADF petition to the U.S. Supreme Court in Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission v. Woods.