Corporation of the Presiding Bishop v. Amos After Thirty Years: Exploring Limits of Religious Freedom, Church Employment, and the Civil Rights Act
The Boston University Public Interest Law Journal, Vol. 28, No. 2
47 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2020 Last revised: 1 Feb 2020
Date Written: August 1, 2019
This article argues the secular business interests of religious organizations should not be exempt from discriminating against individuals on the basis of religion. The Supreme Court in Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. Amos held that the Church’s gym (a secular business open to the public) was exempted under Section 702 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was permitted to discriminate against employees on the basis of religion although the church’s gym had no religious tie to the church’s mission. This holding allows for and has allowed churches to own insurance companies, radio stations, farms, construction companies, candy stores, roofing companies, banks, and other secular interests while simultaneously allowing the secular business interests of these churches to hire exclusively from the participating members of their faith. This article examines potential, if not existing problems, for civil society if Amos’ broad interpretation is not curtailed. It analyzes three analytical frameworks for courts to follow when difficult cases arise that pose challenges in determining whether a business should be exempt from Title VII anti-discrimination clauses. In addition to the three analytical frameworks to resolve Amos-type cases, the scholarly contribution of this article is made by exploring thirty years of legal scholarship, case law, the decisions in Amos I, Amos II, the briefs of the amici curiae, and the Supreme Court’s opinion of 1987. Finally, this paper analyzes the Amos problem through the lens of organizational justice.
Keywords: Civil Rights Act, 1st Amendment, Establishment Clause, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormons, Corporation of the Presiding Bishop, Religious Freedom, Church Employment, Church Corporations
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