Two big stories yesterday at the Supreme Court about the much-contested crossroads of discrimination law and religious exemption. In one, the Court “agreed to review a challenge to Philadelphia’s policy of excluding Catholic Social Services from its foster care system because of its refusal to place children with same-sex couples.” It’s not quite the case some readers will expect, though:
Note that Philadelphia was enforcing a local ordinance of its own making; the case is thus on a very different footing than if it were, say, a challenge to the Obama-era regulations (which HHS has since proposed to rescind) that tried to arm-twist all states and cities into adopting policies like Philadelphia’s. In the HHS episode, it was the liberal side of the controversy that was trying to impose a uniform standard from coast to coast; in this case, it is some conservative religious groups that hope to do that. Scott Shackford has more in a piece at Reason quoting my views, as does the Christian Science Monitor in a piece last week.
In the other case, Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, called on the Court to revisit a 1977 precedent in which it interpreted federal employment discrimination law so as not to require employers to accommodate workers’ religious beliefs if doing so would involve more than de minimis cost or disruption. Back then, it was mostly liberals who wanted a standard less favorable to employers than that; since then many liberals and conservatives have swapped places on the issue. The full piece is here.