(March 2) Why do courts — why do we as a nation — need to keep going over the subject of faith-based hiring? When can we finally start not just insisting that state officials and judges respect the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion but actually start penalizing them for denying that right to others?

These questions arise because the Union Gospel Mission of Yakima, Washington, had to file suit in federal court on March 2 to try to exercise its right to hire for its homeless shelter only people who share the group’s religious beliefs.

The Washington Supreme Court, ignoring copious U.S. Supreme Court precedent, recently decided that the Union Gospel Mission may not adhere to its faith-based hiring practices, and state officials now threaten the charity with considerable punishment for doing so. As in many other similar cases, the homeless shelter in question will serve anybody in need but just not hire nonbelievers to serve them.

To quote from the press release by the Alliance Defending Freedom , which is representing the mission: “From July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, the mission provided a total of 30,167 nights of shelter to 881 different adults and 3,592 nights of shelter for children. Its Good News Cafe provides free meals three times a day to the public and shelter guests; the mission served 141,629 free meals in that same timeframe. Additionally, the mission’s New Life Recovery Program helps people recover from drug and alcohol addictions and homelessness, and its health clinics offer free or reduced-cost services.”

It does all of this quite explicitly as part and parcel of its religious practices, which suffuse and inform all the operations of the shelter, which itself is devoted to evangelizing through its social services.

But the mission insists that as part of its ministry, its own employees must abide by its religious values, including monogamy. If the mission were run by a mosque, nobody would demand that it hire Jews or that it serve bacon for breakfast. So why is a Christian group any different?…. [The full column is here.]


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