(RNS) – The Supreme Court will soon issue a ruling on the intersection of civil rights and religion. In Fulton v. Philadelphia, the Supreme Court will decide whether the First Amendment’s free exercise clause allows Catholic social services to discriminate against families headed by same-sex couples when providing public taxpayer-funded foster care services.
While most media analysis and commentary on this case has focused on the possible impact of the ruling on LGBTQ Americans, we also need to be aware of the possible impact of the ruling on religious minorities in the United States. United. A decision that transforms the free exercise clause into an authorization to discriminate could lead to further discrimination against religious minorities.
Whatever the Supreme Court ruling, its ruling invites – and perhaps demands – an important discussion among people of faith. (And it’s important to remember that people of faith include the LGBTQ community.) While at first glance, a victory for Catholic social services appears to be a victory for clerics, the legalization of religious discrimination funded by taxpayers risk harming both LGBTQ families and religious minorities. While a taxpayer-funded religious social service organization can discriminate against people by claiming that their sexual orientation is inconsistent with the organization’s own religious tenets, it can almost certainly discriminate against people whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with its religious beliefs. religious principles.
As a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am keenly aware of the harms of discrimination based on faith; the need to avoid such religious discrimination against certain types of families really resonates with both my beliefs and my not-so-distant ancestry. In the second half of the 19th century, Latter-day Saints faced discrimination that was ultimately sanctioned by the US Supreme Court.
Much has changed over the next 140 years. Today, even if the Supreme Court allows social service agencies to discriminate in the name of religion, my co-religionists and I are unlikely to bear the brunt of this discrimination. This does not mean that discrimination against us is impossible. The taxpayer-funded Miracle Hill Ministries in South Carolina, for example, refuses to place children in foster care with parents who do not uphold its Protestant Christian doctrinal statement.
A Catholic mother is currently suing the agency because she could not assert her doctrinal statement and was therefore denied the possibility of fostering children. The contents of the statement are alien to the beliefs of the Latter-day Saints as well, and I would also be unable to say so. If we allow agencies providing services on behalf of the government to discriminate based on their own religious beliefs, we will ensure more discrimination against Catholics and Orthodox Christians, as well as Latter-day Saints, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Atheists.
People who share my faith play an important role in all aspects of American life. Yet we recognize and remember the sting of having our families devalued and degraded. Even more than a century later, the pain of the persecution still resonates with us and should guide us towards empathy. We must act in solidarity with all those who are discriminated against, be it because of their religion, their family formation or any other part of their identity. Our empathy for those who face discrimination does not rest solely on our collective history and our concern for the future of our own religious freedom. We also have a religious mandate to stand in solidarity, not with discriminators, but with those who face discrimination.
We have the same religious injunctions that other Christian religions face, especially the empathetic mandate of Jesus that we mourn with those who mourn and comfort those in need of comfort. But we also have our own unique religious mandates. In 1843, Church founder and Prophet Joseph Smith declared that he would defend not only the rights of Latter-day Saints, but those of others as well. Why? Because “the same principle that would trample on the rights of Latter-day Saints would trample on the rights of Roman Catholics, or any denomination that might be unpopular and too weak to stand up for itself. It is the love of freedom that inspires my soul, civil and religious freedom to all mankind.
In short, all Americans should be concerned about what might happen if the Supreme Court establishes a constitutional right to discriminate when that discrimination is motivated by religious beliefs. Americans of all walks of life have long held the principle that discrimination is bad, even if we don’t always understand it correctly. I hope and pray that the Supreme Court does it right this time.
(Samuel D. Brunson is Georgia Reithal Professor of Law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)