Religious exemptions from employment discrimination laws: A moral and theological analysis
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SubjectDiscrimination in employment--Law and legislation--United States.
Freedom of religion--United States.
Church and state.
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The text of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended, includes an exemption for religious organizations from its prohibitions against employment discrimination on the basis of religion, and the federal courts have imputed an additional exemption with respect to "ministerial" employees on the basis of First Amendment protections. This dissertation explores the ongoing constitutional, legal, and moral debate concerning the availability of these religious exemptions, and provides a theological analysis of the central issues arising from the debate. The first part of the dissertation (Chapters 1-3) examines the constitutional debate. Both the legislative and judicial exemptions have been challenged in the courts and in the legal literature, and there is an ongoing dispute concerning the intent and scope of both the First and the Fourteenth Amendments. Part 1 concludes that the principle of "benevolent neutrality" allows the government to extend religious exemptions through legislative action, and that although the free exercise clause provides some degree of religious autonomy, a sufficiently "compelling" government interest may justify some infringements on religious liberty. The second part of the dissertation (Chapters 4-7) offers a moral analysis of the debate, presented in terms of balancing the state's interests in equal employment opportunity against the interests of religious organizations in autonomy. Attention is given to the legal history of "balancing tests" and to providing a more comprehensive review of the interests at stake. The most significant conclusion of Part 2 is that any judgment as to a "balance" is necessarily subjective, and is based upon the weight given by particular judges to the moral values of religious autonomy and equal employment opportunity. The final part of the dissertation (Chapters 8 and 9) offers a theological analysis of the values of religious autonomy and equal employment opportunity. This analysis clarifies the debate by exploring the theological basis for the moral values involved, providing a balance to the secular viewpoint of the courts. The analysis also clarifies the implications of religious exemptions from employment discrimination laws both for the state and for the church.