Belief v. Belief: Resolving LGBTQ Rights Conflicts in the Religious Workplace

62 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2018

See all articles by Elizabeth Brown

Elizabeth Brown

Bentley University

Inara Scott

Oregon State University, College of Business

Date Written: January 16, 2018


Employment disputes are increasingly centered on the conflicting moral and religious values of corporations, their employees, and their customers. These conflicts are especially challenging when they involve the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) employees and customers contraposed against the religious beliefs of corporations and their owners. When religious values compete with civil rights in the employment context, a complex web of legal protections renders the outcome unclear. Conflicts over these competing rights can involve a number of broad, thorny legal disputes, including: those concerning the First Amendment and Title VII, fights between secular and religious beliefs, and competition between religious beliefs and Equal Protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. This article illustrates the reasons for this growing tension between the beliefs of business owners and the beliefs of their employees. It explores recent conflicts between religion and rights in the workplace particularly in the context of LGBTQ rights, the ways in which state-level regulation complicates these conflicts, and the potential impact of recent cases addressing these concerns. It also identifies examples of potential specific conflicts in the context of LGBTQ rights and suggests the principles that should guide the resolution of these cases, offering a framework for assessing the hierarchy that a court may use in resolving cases in which values conflict with rights in the workplace. Finally, it addresses some of the troubling implications that arise as a result of the resolution of the potential specific conflicts.

Keywords: First Amendment, Religious Freedom, LGBTQ Rights, Civil Rights, Employment Discrimination, RFRA

Suggested Citation

Brown, Elizabeth A. and Scott, Inara, Belief v. Belief: Resolving LGBTQ Rights Conflicts in the Religious Workplace (January 16, 2018). American Business Law Journal, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth A. Brown

Bentley University ( email )

175 Forest Street
Waltham, MA 02145
United States

Inara Scott (Contact Author)

Oregon State University, College of Business ( email )

443 Austin Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331
United States

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