The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of postal worker Gerald Groff in his lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service this summer. Groff is an Evangelical Christian and former missionary who refused to work on Sunday, since that day was set aside for attending church and resting. When he got in trouble with the USPS for refusing to work on Sundays, he sued them.
Employers are already required by law to provide accommodations for religious beliefs as long as they do not cause undue hardship on the employer’s business. At the heart of the Supreme Court ruling was the opportunity to clarify what is meant by the term “undue hardship.” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote that courts “should resolve whether a hardship would be substantial in the context of an employer’s business in the commonsense manner that it would use in applying any such test.”
The ruling pushes the case back to the lower courts with the understanding that Groff’s demand not to work Sundays does not cause undue hardship to the employer and should be protected as part of his religious expression. This ruling is in line with past rulings, including the 2015 case of a Muslim woman who was denied a job at Abercrombie & Fitch because her headscarf went against company dress code.
Despite our First Amendment right to religious freedom and the many ways the Supreme Court has reinforced this principle, religious freedom is still under attack. A recent survey found that three in five Americans fear sharing their religious or political beliefs because of how it might affect their job. The same survey found that 63% of companies use their brand and money to roll back protections for free speech and religious expression.
Religious freedom is a foundational right that benefits every citizen. Here are a few simple reforms that will help protect religious expression in the workplace:
- Expand non-discrimination laws for religious citizens in civil rights acts as well as in employment, housing and education law to ensure accommodations for religious faith.
- Require government agencies to adopt reasonable accommodation guidelines for religious employees and members of the public, allowing them to participate in the public square like any other citizen.
- Adopt policies that protect religion and speech inside and outside the workplace so employees can speak freely without fear of reprisal at work.
It is important that we do everything we can to protect the right to practice and express religion freely. It is a key element not only to liberty in America, it is a key piece of who so many Americans are at their heart. Asking them to censor or ignore that takes us down a dangerous road.