U.S. & World

Supreme Court justices question Obama administration's religious freedom arguments


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    Oct. 6, 2011 5:27 p.m.

    Freedom-In-Danger says:

    "Your claim: "the right of gay couples to choose to marry... It's our choosing what we endorse.

    Again, governments ought to protect individual freedom. If religions can't choose who they pay for anything, then they have no choice in using what they own either, and neither do individuals. "


    You don't see the hypocrisy in your statements, do you.

    You first tell us that we are free to live together without government recognition because YOU choose not to "endorse it" (what gives you the right to "endorse" or not, the marriage of others?), and then you turn around and tell us that the government ought to protect individual freedom.

    What you're really saying is that religions and straight couples ought to receive preferential treatment from the government.

    In this case, the woman was a teacher at a school operated by a religion. It is STILL a business and Civil Law is pertinent - even though the business is a religious organization. When an organization operates a Civil Business they are bound by Civil Laws - including anti-discrimination laws.

  • Maudine SLC, UT
    Oct. 6, 2011 11:29 a.m.

    @ Freedom-In-Danger: "Choosing not to recognize a practice you believe in, does not take away your freedom to believe or practice it. It's our choosing what we endorse."

    So - what's the problem here?

    You are arguing that because some people don't approve of same-sex marriage, gay couples can get married anyway, just not have government recognition and the benefits that go along with it.

    Well, by that same reasoning, businesses and this church and others can choose to engage in discrimination and just forego government recognition and all the benefits that go along with it.

  • Freedom-In-Danger WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    Oct. 6, 2011 11:15 a.m.

    Ultra Bob:

    Freedom only exists because of our choosing to accept restraints and restrictions from our freely elected government, which is designed to protect freedom. True.

    The problem:

    We elect government to restrict driving speeds. Why? To protect each other from others harming us, otherwise known as- infringing our freedom. Those protections are to protect others from taking away our freedom to choose.

    Bob refuses to sell to Jim. Forcing Bob against his will does NOT make Jim free. It takes Bob's freedom away. Jim had nothing taken from him whatsoever.

    Modern day liberalism has been twisted into anti-freedom- where 'equally free' was twisted to mean 'equally entitled to things that aren't yours to give, get, or choose'. We are all equally in control of our government; we all equally have the freedom to choose for ourselves and make our lives what we will. That is the true nature of equality and liberal thought.

    I have logically shown how Neo-liberalism has an inevitably destructive end. The original liberal paradigm has been twisted into this modern anti-freedom idea.

    It's a logical deception.

    Government should only "restrict" citizens from forcing others to do things against their will.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Oct. 6, 2011 11:00 a.m.

    @ Freedom-In-Danger | 10:28 a.m. Oct. 6, 2011


    The LDS church doesn't even agree with your interpertation of their own scriptures. They came out in favor of anti gay discrimination laws when Salt Lake City was debating on whether to adopt such laws.

    You don't have a right to do what ever you want with your own property. Otherwise a person could buy property right next to your house and put in a slaughter house with all its noises and smells.

    What we are talking about is freedom of business owners vs freedom of minorities and all others. Thankfully society doesn't agree with you. If a person doesn't like this, then they are free not to start a business. However a minority isn't free to change their race.

    Your freedom to swing your fists ends where someone elses nose begins.

  • Maudine SLC, UT
    Oct. 6, 2011 10:51 a.m.

    @ Chachi: The ministerial exception would not apply to your scenario because an engineer is not a minister - even when they are working on an LDS Temple.

    If certain posters really believe what they are saying here, they must, by default, support same-sex marriage and abortion.

    These posters claim that people must have the right to make choices even if you disagree with them and think they are wrong, these posters claim the government should not be able to force ideals - even potentially harmful ideals - on others. These posters also claim that settled law should not be overturned.

    Prodicus, Chachi, A voice of Reason, Freedom-In-Danger, the truth, toosmartforyou - do you really believe what you say or are you just relativistic hypocrits who like to twist the laws and the Constitution to force others to your will?

  • Freedom-In-Danger WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    Oct. 6, 2011 10:44 a.m.


    Your claim: "the right of gay couples to choose to marry"

    They can, just as polygamists do every day. Choosing not to recognize a practice you believe in, does not take away your freedom to believe or practice it. It's our choosing what we endorse.


    Your claim: "I don't believe that government should tell religions how/what/where to worship. I do believe that when those religions act as a business..."

    The root premise- "Religions can't act like business and also distinguish who they will do so with"

    Government is formed to protect our individual freedom to choose-

    There is no legal principle of "acting like business" but the principle rather "spending currency or resources in trade for something". If a religion can't choose who to hire, then how do you prevent government from forcing religions to hire bishops or clergy that they do not believe in?

    That would in fact force religions HOW to worship. You can't justify two principles that contradict each other.

    Again, governments ought to protect individual freedom. If religions can't choose who they pay for anything, then they have no choice in using what they own either, and neither do individuals.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Oct. 6, 2011 10:32 a.m.

    voice of Reason | 4:54 p.m. Oct. 5, 2011
    A voice of Reason | 9:01 p.m. Oct. 5, 2011

    Our freedom as American citizens is not unbounded, we are not "free". It is a true fact that most of our "freedoms" exist because of the restrictions and controls over freedom of others by our government.

    It is also true that a church does not have the same freedoms and individual American citizens. The Supreme Court decision regards corporations are people, probably applies to churches as well. However neither has the right to vote, yet.

  • Freedom-In-Danger WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    Oct. 6, 2011 10:28 a.m.

    The sensible middle, you said "How free are you when you can't even be assured you can have housing"

    D&C 2 (LDS Scripture) - "We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life."

    Prodicus worded this very well: "the right of individuals to associate freely and the right of communities to set standards are trampled in the name of others' so-called "right" not to face... distinctions and choices."

    If someone chooses not to deal with me because of my LDS beliefs, they are free to. I have no authority to take away what is THEIR belongings, or THEIR choice. This does not infringe my freed right to own property. But I do not have any claim to THEIR property. If you refuse to sell me your house, the only premise that I can force you to sell anyway is fairness, which is not the same as freedom. Fair may be morally right, but freedom allows people to CHOOSE which morals they believe in.

    Equally free, not equally entitled.

  • Kalindra Salt Lake City, Utah
    Oct. 6, 2011 10:27 a.m.

    This case is being framed as a Freedom of Religion case and the ministerial exception is being cited because churches should have the right to choose who their ministers are and should be able to let them go without fear of retaliation, etc., etc., in line with their religious teachings.

    I understand, respect, and have no problems with that.

    But what part of this particular church's religious doctrine dictated their treatment of this teacher? What part of their religious doctrine says they retaliate against people?

    I understand they took measures to make the situation as easy as possible - but paying part of the insurance cost does nothing if she has no income to pay the other part.

    If you have a legitimate religous doctrine reason for what you as a religion do, that's one thing. To just take whatever actions you want and expect carte blanche because you are a religious organization is an entirely different matter.

  • ClarkKent Bountiful, Utah
    Oct. 6, 2011 9:20 a.m.

    All I can say is that it would REALLY concern me if I was a member of a church who thought it was Christlike to treat this woman the way she was apparently treated. And when churches complain that the government is infringing on their religious freedoms, someone needs to pay very close attention to really see who is trying to what to whom.

  • RanchHand Huntsville, UT
    Oct. 6, 2011 9:01 a.m.

    @Voice & Chachi;

    I don't believe that government should tell religions how/what/where to worship.

    I do believe that when those religions act as a business, run a business, etc. that they absolutely MUST be subject to Civil Law.

    Running a school is a business, be it Catholic, LDS, Lutheran, etc.

    Running a mercantile is a business, be it ZCMI, or The new downtown Center the LDS is building.

    Running a bank is a business, think Zions.

    Just because a religion runs a business doesn't give it any special privileges - religions just want Extra Privileges and rights.

  • Lilljemalm Gilbert, AZ
    Oct. 6, 2011 8:57 a.m.

    After being elected to the ministry, her duties didn't change. That is suspect in my mind as ministers can take special tax breaks that non-professional ministers cannot. Was it all done to give her those tax breaks? There are a lot more questions that I need answered before I could pass judgemnt in the case.

  • Vanka Provo, UT
    Oct. 6, 2011 7:48 a.m.

    to the truth and others,

    Keep the government out of the Church?

    I agree.

    And keep the Church out of government.

    And keep religion out of business. Keep religion from being big business.

    Sounds like separation of Church and State to me!

    If individuals want to believe in fantasies and fictions, fine. But when they band together and systematically pursue government and economic agendas that take civil rights from others, that persecute and discriminate against others who do not share their fantasies, then such groups need to be restrained and regulated.

    This woman was mistreated and exploited because of her health. When she wanted to be treated fairly and humanely, she was discriminated against because she didn't submit to arbitrary religious authority.

    Religion must NEVER be used as an excuse for abuse, mistreatment, and injustice.

    And yet history is replete with religion's long track record of those very things.

    It is past time to say "enough"!

  • The Sensible Middle Bountiful, UT
    Oct. 6, 2011 6:59 a.m.

    Government definately does have an interest and therefore a right to make discrimination illegal and to enforce such laws.

    When one looks at the damage discrimination has done in times past in this nation, this should be a no brainer.

    Discrimination laws actually make people more free not less. Before such laws business owners routinely said minioities couldn't rent an apartment, or couldn't be served at a resturant. How free did this make those discriminated against? How free are you when you can't even be assured you can have housing just because you are a different race, or be served in a resturant? If you care about freedom, support antidiscrimination.

    If business owners don't want to serve everyone, they are free to not start a business. They ought not be free to discriminate against people. Thank goodness this country has changed and repented (for the most part) of these sins.

    Furthermore if religions are free to discriminate against people for reasons that don't pertain to religion, this is the begining of a slippery slope.

  • wwookie Payson, UT
    Oct. 6, 2011 6:26 a.m.

    This case cannot be that hard. If the school requires all teachers to be ministers, then the church can decide who and who isn't a minister. If she were let go because she was no longer a minister, then there is no case.

    If there are other teachers that aren't ministers, then she has a case. She is an employee just like the other teachers.

    What that means is that if a church doesn't allow gays to be ministers, then they can discriminate against gays in their hiring practices - as long as they only hire ministers. What about BYU? Do they have to comply with equal opportunity hiring practices? There might be some future cases coming up...

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    Oct. 6, 2011 12:16 a.m.

    Though I observe the Sabbath on Sundays, if I lived in a Jewish-majority community I would think it entirely reasonable that they should have and should I obey laws prohibiting commerce on Saturdays. A community should be able to choose its standards, and people should be able to choose what community they want to live in.

    Some communities may choose to be Jerusalem and some will choose to be Sodom. Those are their decisions, and as people vote with their feet and as communities face consequences of their decisions, society will develop and improve.

    Instead, all around the Western world right now we see a "leveling down," where the right of individuals to associate freely and the right of communities to set standards are trampled in the name of others' so-called "right" not to face "discrimination" i.e. *distinctions and choices*. The result is that societies everywhere are headed for the lowest common denominator.

  • Chachi Charlottesville, VA
    Oct. 5, 2011 9:10 p.m.

    @Ranch: So you think government should be able to regulate people's religions. Interesting. You know, there are countries that agree with you--North Korea, mainland China, Iran, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, etc.

    But here in America, where we believe in religious freedom, churches receive exceptions to the law not afforded to corporations, because we recognize that our attempts to protect people from discrimination cannot unduly burden that most basic of human freedoms: the freedom to determine one's own view of life, the universe, and reality, and to live in accordance therewith.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 5, 2011 9:08 p.m.

    My post on a previous article, oddly denied here, but highly appropriate:


    "Even equal opportunity discrimination has interesting consequences.

    While I don't personally support discriminatory hiring practices, I also do not believe that I would be justified in forcing someone else to act according to that (my) belief.

    If Sally won't hire James because of his beliefs- most would argue such a practice to be morally wrong. This is someone choosing not to do something.

    If James forced Sally against her will to hire him anyway- what then? This is what society currently accepts and practices. This is one person forcing another to do things against their will.

    While I personally believe that equal oportunity is morally the best adopted practice- I absolutely do not believe that anyone has a right to force anyone else to do something, to spend their income, use their possessions, or act in anyway against their free choice and according to my will instead."


    Actual equality requires free agency for everyone, including discriminating employers (aka: people with rights); but modern-day liberal "equality" only protects popular beliefs, not freedom to choose.

    Government has no authority to interfere here. Being a "minister" is irrelevant.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 5, 2011 9:01 p.m.


    Does a Government have the right to force people to do things they do not believe in?

    People think of Church's and corporations as big entities with a mind of their own. This is not true as people FORM institutions and groups. When you restrict a church from holding congregational services, you've restricted people from peaceably assembling. When you restrict how the LDS Church can spend it's money... you've restricted how I MYSELF can spend my money.

    Freedom means FREE, whether popular or not, whether it's morally right or not. We freely vote on what's unconstitutional, and the only constitutional reference to equality only refers to government's treatment of people, not how individuals or groups treat each other. How we treat each other is only governed by laws regarding our basic freedoms. I can't restrict your freedom to worship or exercise your religion, speech, freedom to live, and so on. But that has NOTHING to do with me refusing to do business with you. If Someone says "I won't sell to Mormons", they have every right to do so. I may not like it, not one bit. But we have no right to force others against their will.

  • toosmartforyou Farmington, UT
    Oct. 5, 2011 8:35 p.m.

    Maybe I don't understand everything I've read about this, but I can't imagine it is in anyone's interest to "demand" that they be taken back into employment when they were on a disability leave and the owner used their scare funds to hire a temporary replacement. It sounds like both parties should have communicated better about their situation. But then to suddenly sue your previous employer, who has since abandoned the school and combined with another, to what job would she return? And why would you want to go back if you felt that strongly about your previous employer? That's like two neighbors suing each other and then having to live next door for 3 or 4 more decades; it's just nuts!! In the meantime, why does the O'Bama Administration seek to haver the Supreme Court overturn decades of settled religious law? We really do need a change in the White House; common sense is lacking at every turn.

    Oct. 5, 2011 7:25 p.m.

    Churches and Church run schools are Corporations.

    They are subject to the law.

  • Michael De Groote
    Oct. 5, 2011 6:20 p.m.

    @MormonDem: The trial court in this case didn't make any findings of fact since they granted summary judgment for the school -- so we don't know everything yet. Nevertheless, Perich did not make any legal claim that she was discriminated against because of her narcolepsy disability. She is asserting retaliation because she threatened to take legal action.

    As near as I can tell the school (a tiny school run by a very small local congregation -- they had about 7 teachers and about 80 students total) kept her from July until about April. They hired a temporary teacher to replace her for that year and were hoping to have her come back the next year. (Their concern was cost and the children having to switch teachers again. Also, her claims she was fine contradicted other communications they had from her -- so they were nervous that her recovery had suddenly just happened.) They were going to help with her insurance premiums as well. Several lawyers argue that the school went way beyond normal accommodation for a disability. So They requested that she accept a "peaceful release" for the year. She threatened legal action, the congregation rescinded her religious call.

  • Chachi Charlottesville, VA
    Oct. 5, 2011 5:59 p.m.

    Let's suppose Perich/Tabor wins this one and SCOTUS says that courts may determine who counts as a minister, and that only employees whose duties are "primarily" (or "substantially" or "overwhelmingly" or whatever test the Court dreams up) ecclesiastical count as ministers.

    Then let's say that a temple engineer an LDS temple loses his temple recommend when he has a surgical sex change. As a result, he's fired from his job. He sues under the ADA, alleging discrimination based on sex. If Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran loses this case, the ministerial exception would only apply to persons whose duties the courts consider primarily ecclesiastical. Under that rule, the courts would hold that the temple engineer is not a minister, and therefore the LDS Church is prohibited from discriminating against him.

    The LDS Church could be ordered to hire him back and admit him to the temple.

  • AZRods Maricopa, AZ
    Oct. 5, 2011 5:56 p.m.

    Even more entertaining than seeing Obama brought into the discussion, which the article clearly identifies the reason and the source, is seeing posts by people who don't believe in religion, comment on every religious article, on an LDS owned paper AND they live in Utah...priceless.

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    Oct. 5, 2011 5:50 p.m.

    Keep government out of the church!

    Do we really want goverment dictating who is a minister in your church?

    "Congress shall make no law..." what part of that do some do people do not understand?

    Private organzations do have some latitiude in deciding membership and leadership.

    And it is not discrmination exercising those rights.

    Trying to compare or equate everything to race and slavery is silly and ignorant.

  • FDRfan safety dictates, ID
    Oct. 5, 2011 5:31 p.m.

    The Obama Administrations view trumps the economic issues for me. It is frightening and he must not have the opportunity to appoint another Justice that shares that view. I can live with a Republican administration much easier than I can having the courts or government telling churches they cannot preach repentance for fear of violating a sinners civil rights.

  • CougMan San Diego, CA
    Oct. 5, 2011 5:26 p.m.

    @cjb -- So you really think the government should have the right to tell churches who they can hire and fire as ministers based on discrimination laws? So now we have Obama and Eric Holder telling the Catholic church that they have to allow women Priests? And if they don't comply, then what do we do to the Catholic church?

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 5, 2011 5:22 p.m.

    Dear Michael De Groote & Deseret News,

    I would like to publicly thank you for placing the amount of focus you do on the issues that important and often neglected by the mainstream media.

    Despite some of those who post comments criticizing this paper and writers for taking the stance they do, regardless of the large religious base that reads this paper- and despite the fact that religious freedom is important regardless of who owns or reads the Deseret News-

    Despite all that, I would thank you and welcome more of these articles. Because it is my firm believe that if anyone cares about their own freedom- if anyone is upholding their duties and responsibilities as a citizen- and that anyone who holds respect and tolerance for the right to freely believe, if even different than the views held by themselves... that ALL people rightly would have some sense of virtue and goodness by respecting the fact that this freedom is without doubt, at the very core of a peaceful society and any degree of human progress.

    Mr. De Groote and this paper and its ownership is doing the public a great service with such values.

    Thank you!

    Oct. 5, 2011 5:13 p.m.

    If you read the article, it makes clear that Mr. McConnel wrote his article for the Wall Street Journal, which, last time I checked, is not owned by the LDS Church or any other religious organization.

    As for the connection to the Obama administration, I would have to see that I find it hard to connect the dots. Perhaps they are referring to the rather unconventional and even extreme position taken by the Attorney General in this case. It would be unlikely that such a position would have been taken without the approval of the administration.

    That being said, I believe that the only action that should be enforced by the court is informed consent. People should be told what they are getting into when they take a ministerial position, and if they don't like it they should get a different job, or challenge the classification at that time.

    p.s. What exactly is "radical discrimination"?

  • S.Andrew Zaelit Deseret, UT
    Oct. 5, 2011 5:12 p.m.

    The ministerial exception is an important firewall against the federal governments continued intrusion into religion. The purpose of separating church and state is not to protect the state from religion, but rather to protect religion from an abusive state. Under this case, the government could have unfettered power to determine what religion is acceptable and what religion is not via the open interpretation of the ADA. What is the most telling is that the plaintiff is unwilling to acknowledge whether or not she is a minister. Surely, this argument would have been made in open court so there would be no need to be evasive to the press. The appearance on its face is that she wants the SCOTUS to force that determination on her former employer through judicial fiat. The association to Obama is because it is his Justice Department arguing the case. I do not believe that the association goes any deeper than that. I suspect the SCOTUS will uphold the ministerial exception 7-2 or 6-3. If they do not then the freedom and protection of religion in the United States will have been dealt a serious blow from which there may be no recovery.

  • Freedom-In-Danger WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    Oct. 5, 2011 4:59 p.m.

    The U.S. Government is currently deciding whether or not it will allow religions to chose how and who they can trade, deal, exchange with, or spend their resources.

    And here, so many people on here thought I was without claim the other day for saying that some people are in fact trying to limit religious freedom. In fact, I was even asked to cite a reference.

    Well here you are!

  • MormonDem Provo, UT
    Oct. 5, 2011 4:57 p.m.

    As a religious person, I am deeply saddened that this particular examination of religious freedom seeks to determine whether or not a church can fire someone--a school teacher--with a disability who would otherwise be protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act.

    In other words, the church in question wants the court to allow it to meet a LOWER standard of human respect, decency, and ethics.

    They should be ashamed of themselves for calling this a "Freedom of Religion" case.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 5, 2011 4:54 p.m.


    The freedom to believe according to your own free will is inherent, a right, and paramount in comparison to the idea that one has a right to anti-discrimination legal protection. Furthermore, one cannot have a right to something that belongs to someone else. If I offer to pay someone for their time, to help me with a backyard project- what business does the government have forcing me to have 'rules for who I can choose'. My choice belongs TO ME. That is freedom. While anti-discrimination may be a more moral choice, while it may be popular, it in every way is still a choice. When you force others to do the right thing, you are doing the wrong thing in doing so.

    Can I force others to attend LDS meetings just because I believe that's right? People often like to quote questions and reply. If attacking my view, address this- I support the free right to CHOOSE what I do with my money, property, and so on. Do you not support the same? Does the government have the right to interfere if I have not infringed others right to chose? The correct answer is "No!"

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Oct. 5, 2011 4:35 p.m.

    Religious freedom is important. But so is having legal protections against discrimination.

    Religion + Discrimination < no religion + no discrimination

    Treating people fairly and being assured you have recourse if you are discriminated against is actually more important than religious freedom if you had to make a choice.

    Discrimination resulted in slavery. It keeps individuals and generations from reaching their full potential.

    Fortunately we can have both goods. Allow churches to fire ministers who don't teach correct doctrine. Do not allow them to fire ministers for other reasons that are illegal. Such as for age discrimination. Or radial discrimination etc.

  • Rocket Science Brigham City, UT
    Oct. 5, 2011 4:34 p.m.

    Like wise the question to Mr. P:

    WHAT does this have to do with Romney?