U.S. bishops praise Supreme Court’s unanimous Groff v. DeJoy religious freedom decision

Gerald Groff Former U.S. postal worker Gerald Groff believes his religious freedom was violated when heh was reprimanded for refusing to work on Sundays. | First Liberty Institute

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in favor of a Christian postal worker’s religious freedom rights in Thursday’s Groff v. DeJoy decision.

In a statement released Thursday, the USCCB said that the ruling “breathed life back into a major civil rights law meant to prevent discrimination by employers against people of faith in the workplace.”

In its ruling, written by Justice Samuel Alito, the court said federal law requires an employer that denies an employee a religious accommodation must show that the burden of the accommodation would result in substantial increased costs.

The court rejected the “de minimis” standard that interpreted Article VII of the Civil Rights Act to allow employers to deny workers’ religious accommodation requests if they presented more than a “trivial cost.”

“In so many ways today we see people of faith being told that they can only follow their religious beliefs in private or within the four walls of a church,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty. “But religious freedom means nothing if it does not extend to the public square. And the public square is better off when religion is welcome there.”

“In the workplace we meet and collaborate with people from other walks of life,” Dolan added. “Working together requires navigating personal differences with compassion and respect — and that obligation applies to religious differences no less than others.”

At the heart of this case was Gerald Groff, a former postal worker who is also an evangelical missionary.

In 2019, Groff resigned from his position with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) after years of allegedly being harassed, targeted, and disciplined for refusing to work Sundays so that he could abide by the Third Commandment, to “keep holy the sabbath day.”

Groff then sued the USPS for violating his religious rights.

After his claims were denied by both a Pennsylvania district court and the 3rd Circuit Court, the Supreme Court agreed to take up his appeal in January.

In February, the USCCB was part of a multi-faith coalition that filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of Groff’s religious rights.

The brief argued that “Americans shouldn’t have to choose between their jobs and their faith.”

“Correctly interpreted,” the brief said, “Title VII’s mandate to accommodate employees’ religion affirms this nation’s fundamental commitment to religious freedom. That mandate embodies a careful balance between the right of workers to practice their religion without sacrificing their jobs and the ability of employers to maintain an effective workplace.”

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