A Question About Protecting The Right To Discriminate

Regarding this discussion about exempting churches from ENDA, I have a question:

Until 1978, Mormon church doctrine viewed black people as inferior. Blacks were prevented from joining the priesthood, which is something all male Mormons who’ve been on their mission get to do. If you’re not in the priesthood there’s a bunch of stuff you can’t do, events and rituals you can’t participate in, offices you can’t hold, etc. My question: were the Mormon Church and its institutions (like schools) exempted from the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Anyone know? Seems like a parallel here.


Filed under culture wars, GLBT, racism, religion

12 responses to “A Question About Protecting The Right To Discriminate

  1. Jim in Memphis

    “Religious exemptions under Title VII
    Before we discuss the religious exemptions in ENDA specifically, it is first important to understand how religious exemptions work under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, upon which ENDA is based.
    Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Additionally, it includes a critical exemption that allows religious entities to make employment decisions—such as hiring, promoting, and firing—based on an individual’s religion. Specifically, Section 702(a) of Title VII states:
    This subchapter shall not apply to … a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, education institution, or society of its activities.
    Section 703(e)(2) of Title VII similarly reiterates that religiously run or religiously owned schools may also take an individual’s religion into account when making hiring or firing decisions.
    In other words, although Title VII does not exempt religious entities from discrimination based on race, color, sex, or national origin, it does carve out an exemption that allows those entities to discriminate on the basis of religion. A Lutheran elementary school, for example, may fire a teacher for being a Mormon. But it may not fire a teacher for being Asian American or for being a woman.
    In 1987 the Supreme Court affirmed that Title VII’s religious exemption allows faith-based organizations to discriminate on the basis of someone’s religion, even when the employee’s work is secular in nature. The Court ruled in Bishop v. Amos that a Mormon Church could require its janitor to practice Mormonism and could terminate his employment if he refused.”

    from: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/report/2012/06/11/11728/the-freedom-to-work-the-freedom-to-worship/

  2. Kosh III

    The Utah sect was roundly criticized by the NAACP and others over their policy. However, when the church was building a Temple in Brazil, the fact that Brazil is strongly mixed led them to have a “revelation” from one of their gods that it was now ok.

  3. Anniemouse

    It could be that back in the 1960s, society was less willing to stand up against religious bigotry.

    • I think you’re probably right. Also I wonder how much religion was part of the national discourse? Pre-Moral Majority I’m not sure they such a big part of the national dialogue. But I could be wrong, I was just an itty bitty kid back then.

      • Anniemouse

        I graduated college in the very late 1980s, and the stuff I saw in the workplace then would never fly now. My completely-non-religious-based, nothing-to-do-with-religion company would have Christian prayers before all-hands meetings. The loud shrieks when a non-Christian asked them to cease-and-desist and the abuse the non-Christian endured was horrific. That was a generation after the 1960s.

  4. efgoldman

    I don’t think, then or now, that you could force a church to change discriminatory doctrine.
    I mean, no one would expect the Catholic church to ordain a rabbi (unless he converted) or a female Episcopal minister, would they? You hate the policy, but its their policy, engraved, they insist, in biblical stone.

    • Right, my question doesn’t refer to the church’s religious functions but rather its non-religious institutions — Brigham Young University, for example … would they have been allowed to not promote an African American employee based on race alone? Would they have been allowed to not hire an African American because that person wasn’t “a member in good standing with full temple privileges” which African Americans were barred from obtaining pre-1978?

  5. Mnemosyne

    As EF said, as I understand it, the actual church can do whatever it wants. In Catholic terms, the Catholic Church can refuse to marry a gay couple and they are 100 percent within their rights under the First Amendment, but a Catholic-affiliated hospital would not be allowed to refuse visitation to a gay couple, because they are not primarily a church, they’re primarily a hospital. Does that make sense?

  6. “I think you’re probably right. Also I wonder how much religion was part of the national discourse? Pre-Moral Majority I’m not sure they such a big part of the national dialogue.”

    Al Smith’s run for the presidency as well as JFK’s both had the ReiKKKwing fundies of the day gnashing their teeth and howling about the U.S. being run by ROME if either of them got elected.

    Religion, not faith, is ingrained in U.S, (and most other countries) politics and leads to a lot of mischief.

  7. Kosh III

    Yeah, I remember the 60 eection. Kennedy was going to change the slogan from In God we Trust to In the Pope we Hope.
    Inretrospect, since it was John 23rd, not a bad idea 🙂

  8. Bitter Scribe

    The Chicago Tribune, in an article this morning, had an interesting twist on this, in light of how gay marriage just got passed in Illinois.

    The law doesn’t force religious institutions to marry gay people or host gay marriage on religious property, if that property is used solely for religious functions. But if it’s available to members of the public outside that religion, like a banquet hall owned by a church that caters to anyone who pays, then they can’t claim the religious exemption for turning away gays.

    That’s as it should be, IMO. I’m a little tired of bigots who hide their bigotry behind religion.