What Catholic LGBTQ Church Workers–And EVERYBODY–Need to Know About the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court is again capturing the nation’s political attention with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the struggle over her replacement is already playing out. Advocates for LGBTQ equality have lost a strong voice for justice.

But this transition is only the latest significant moment involving the court and LGBTQ equality this year, particularly in the areas of employment law and religious liberty.  This year has been a roller coaster ride for LGBTQ church workers in terms of the court’s decisions.

To help LGBTQ church workers–and all concerned with justice and equality for all church workers–New Ways Ministry is sponsoring a webinar with Professor Leslie Griffin about what Catholics need to know regarding the court, employment law, and religious liberty. Professor Griffin, who also has a doctorate in Religious Studies and was on the faculty of the Theology Department at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, is a leading expert on the intersection of religion and law. She has filed several amicus curiae briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court on religious liberty cases. The following are the main details of the program:

Webinar: “What Catholic LGBTQ Church Workers Need to Know About the Supreme Court’s 2020 Cases”

Sunday, November 1, 2020 | 4:00-5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time | Via Zoom

For more information or to register for the webinar, click here

Leslie Griffin

The webinar with Professor Griffin will include an opportunity for audience questions. This program is not only for LGBTQ church workers, but for all Catholics who are concerned about employment justice in Catholic institutions.  Pastoral staff, principals, agency heads, and Catholics in the pews are all welcome!

What happened this year that was so important for LGBTQ church workers?  In June, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock that, under Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex in federal law, employers could not discriminate based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, too. Just weeks later, however, in O.L. Guadalupe, the court ruled that non-discrimination protections of all types, including sexual orientation and gender, did not apply to employees of religious institutions when those institutions deemed the employees as ministers.

In the last decade, more than 100 cases of church workers losing their jobs in LGBTQ-related employment disputes have become public (a listing is available here).  In every case, the local Catholic faithful have risen up to protest these unfair decisions.  While there have been a few court victories for those unjustly fired, in most cases they and their lawyers run into strong religious exemption obstacles.  (For New Ways Ministry’s information and resources on employment issues, click here.)

Looking ahead, in the new Court session beginning on October 5th, the court will take up Fulton v. City of Philadelphia in its next term to determine whether a Catholic adoption and foster care provider can deny services to LGBTQ clients on religious liberty grounds. (For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of this case as it has developed, click here.) And there is the wider question of how an even more conservative court could impact the furtherance of equal rights under the law.

It has already been an interesting year when it comes to the Supreme Court and LGBTQ equality. Where do these rulings and the future of the Supreme Court post-Justice Ginsburg leave LGBTQ Catholics, specifically those employed by religious institutions who have faced a wave of discriminatory firings? Faced with a vacant seat and opponents of LGBTQ equality pressing the religious liberty issue further, now is a prime moment for all Catholics invested in social justice to learn more about an institution with sweeping powers to either expand or curtail the equality we seek.

In the meantime, consider two responses on Bondings 2.0 from Catholic theologians in the wake the Supreme Court’s employment rulings this summer:

Dr. Lisa Fullam, “Discrimination and Degradation Both Are Parts of SCOTUS Decision on ‘Ministers’

Dr. Cristina Traina, “Freedom of Religion vs. Freedom from Discrimination: A Lament and A Plan of Action

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 22, 2020

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