An appeals court keeps religious freedom within decent bounds

Religion News Service | 3/8/2018 | Mark Silk
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On Wednesday, a federal appeals court said that you can’t fire a transgender person just because you think gender is a gift from God that can’t be changed. The case, EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, was brought by Aimee Stephens, a funeral director in Michigan who was fired when she told her boss, Thomas Rost, that she had a gender identity disorder and planned to transition from male to female.

Reversing a lower court decision, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that 1) the ban on sex discrimination in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act applies to transgender identity; and 2) the firing was not protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Rost - God - Commands - Director - Uniform

Rost claimed that he would be “violating God’s commands” if he permitted a male funeral director “to wear the uniform for female directors while at work.” I guess the applicable command here is Deuteronomy 22:5, which reads (in the King James Version): “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”

Of course, that begs the gender identity question: What, exactly, is “woman” and “man”?

Rost - Belief - Teaches - Person - Sex

On that, Rost’s asserted his sincere belief that “the Bible teaches that a person’s sex is an immutable God-given gift,” and that to let Stephens transition in the job would make him complicit “in supporting the idea that sex is a changeable social construct.”

But in America it is not enough to possess a sincere religious belief. You’ve got to show that your free exercise is substantially burdened by having to do something that in your view violates that belief. In the present case, the court said it wasn’t:

Rost - Stephens

Rost may sincerely believe that, by retaining Stephens as an...
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