A Michigan Catholic church has asked a federal appeals court to reverse a lower court's decision to dismiss its lawsuit against the state over a policy that could prohibit the parish from using morality as a factor in the hiring process.
St. Joseph Catholic Church and school in St. John's, Michigan, filed an appeal with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals last week after a Biden-appointed district court judge dismissed its case against the state in August. The parish is suing the state over a newly-revised state law that makes it illegal for St. Joseph to hire employees who agree to uphold its religious beliefs or maintain a school or church environment that reflects its faith.
"Thanks to a change in Michigan law, all of St. Joseph's employment, educational, and publicly open activities are subject to liability whenever they uphold the Catholic understanding of human sexuality, gender, or marriage," the church said in its appeal.
The case centers on a law passed earlier this year that bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and does not allow for religious exemptions.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is named as a defendant in the suit, previously said that Michiganders who seek exemptions on the grounds of faith "are not religious heroes, they are bigots." According to the Washington Examiner, state Sen. Jeff Irwin, a Democrat, said during the passage of the bill that a religious exemption was essentially a "license to discriminate" and helped spearhead the effort to quash exemptions.
The parish is being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and contends that, without a religious exemption, it runs the risk of being sued in all its open activities — at the parish, the school, and its local Knights of Columbus Hall — simply for upholding Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality. The Michigan church also follows Catholic teaching on issues like pronouns and separate bathrooms and locker rooms for girls and boys.
The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman and that the differences between males and females are innate and absolute.
St. Joseph's filed its lawsuit in an attempt to block the measure before it could be enforced, but U.S. District Judge Jane M. Beckering — who was nominated to the bench by President Joe Biden — dismissed the parish's case in August for lack of standing.
In its appeal, St. Joseph's contends that the ability of religious organizations to hire employees who uphold church teachings on morality has been repeatedly affirmed by the Supreme Court.
"Constitutional rights don't come with permission slips," William Haun, senior counsel for the Becket Fund, said in a press release. "Michigan cannot tell St. Joseph and every other religious organization in the state that they are breaking the law by staying true to their religious beliefs.
"We are asking the court to step in and ensure that religious groups across the state can live out their faith and not be sued simply because they open their doors to everyone."
Oral arguments in the case are expected in the spring, according to the Becket Fund.
Nicole Wells ✉
Nicole Wells, a Newsmax general assignment reporter covers news, politics, and culture. She is a National Newspaper Association award-winning journalist.
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