Category Personnel/Employment
Title Be Sure to Remember This Case! Bishop v. Amos
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Preview Be Sure to Remember This Case! Bishop v. Amos
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Be Sure to Remember This Case!
Bishop v. Amos

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the main civil rights law for the nation, contains an exemption under which a religious organization is permitted to discriminate based on religion. For this reason, a Jewish day school doesn't have to hire non-Jewish teachers, a Methodist church can require a pastor applicant to be Methodist, and a community Christian school can limit its hiring to evangelical Christians. In this court case, several members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called Mormons, were dismissed as employees of the church's various operations, including a gymnasium, in Salt Lake City. Each of these individuals had failed to qualify for a certificate verifying church membership and eligibility to attend its temples. The certificate is denied to Mormons who are not actively practicing their faith through tithing, attending church, and refraining from the use of coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco. Without the certificates, they were denied further employment. They sued the Mormon Church for religious discrimination, alleging violation of the Establishment Clause.

Under the establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment, neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church or pass laws or prohibit activities that aid one religion over another or prefer one religion over another. The standard is that the government must remain neutral. The government cannot force or influence a person to go to or remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, or for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount can be levied to support any religious activities or religious institutions, no matter what the tax may be called or what form it is in. Neither a state nor the federal government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa.

In a unanimous decision announced in 1987, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the religious exception found in Title VII was constitutional. The Court found the following:

As applied to nonprofit activities of religious employers, provision of Civil Rights Acts exempting religious organizations from Title VII's prohibition against discrimination in employment on the basis of religion was rationally related to legitimate purpose alleviating significant governmental interference with the ability of religious organizations to define and carry out their religious missions, and thus the exemption did not violate the equal protection clause.

This court has long recognized that the government may (and sometimes must) accomodate religious practices and that it may do so without violating the Establishment Clause.... There is ample room under the Establishment Clause for "benevolent neutrality which will permit religious exercise to exist without sponsorship and without interference.... A law is not unconstitutional simply because it allows churches to advance religion, which is their very purpose."

Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327, 107S. Ct 2862

Bottom line: Because of the Court's decision in Bishop v. Amos, your Christian school may require job applicants to be Christians, to share their testimony, even to be from a particular denomination or be active in a local "evangelical" church. The decision also allows religious schools to make other types of personnel decisions based on religion, such as requiring employees to follow certain lifestyle requirements. Here are two suggestions: (1) Go to www.acsi.org/legal-resources and read the article entitled, Understanding Title VII's Religious Exemption 2018. This article will give you additional important details about your school's religious rights in making employment decisions. The article contains the printed version of the exception clause and where it is found in the law. (2) Be sure to include scriptural documentation wherever possible in your school's job descriptions, employee handbook, and personnel policies. Make sure that these materials reflect the fact that you are not a "secular" employer, but a Christian employer entitled to use the Title VII exception!

Notice: This article is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It has been provided to member schools with the understanding that ACSI is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. Laws vary by jurisdiction, and the specific application of laws to particular facts requires the advice of an attorney.

Association of Christian Schools International
731 Chapel Hills Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80920
Phone: 719.528.6906
ACSI.org

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