Does the Recent Supreme Court Ruling on Sex Discrimination Threaten Religious Freedom?

June 22 2020

In the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court ruled that protections against discrimination on the basis of sex found in the 1964 Civil-Right Act apply to homosexuals and transsexuals as well. That means, for instance, a company cannot refuse to hire someone because he is gay, or transsexual. To the traditionally religious, the ruling, issued last week, raises some serious concerns. Can an Orthodox synagogue be sued for not hiring a gay rabbi? Must conservative Christian schools allow men who identify as women to live in women’s dormitories? David French believes the threat to religious liberty, although not negligible, is nowhere as grave as some fear:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—the same statute at issue in Bostock—contains a provision specifically designed to protect the autonomy of religious organizations. . . . It’s true that this carveout does not allow the religious organization to discriminate on other grounds (such as race or sex), but it does allow them to filter out all applicants who do not share the group’s faith.

Religious employers, [moreover], are completely exempt from nondiscrimination statutes when hiring and firing “ministerial” employees. The ministerial exception may well be the key firewall protecting church from state.

If there’s a single question I’ve received more than any other, it’s this: does Bostock mean that religious schools will now have to alter policies regarding dorm rooms or sexual conduct to comply with federal prohibitions against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination? The short answer is no. The longer answer is nope, not unless they choose to be subject to Title IX, the federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs and activities.

If anything, French writes, the trend in the federal jurisprudence of recent years has been to strengthen such protections for religious freedom, suggesting that these will survive new challenges as well. He concludes:

[I]t is true that in some respects religious liberty is “under siege.” There are activists and lawmakers who want to push back at multiple doctrines and some radicals even dream of revoking tax exemptions from religious organizations that maintain traditional teachings on sex and sexuality. But if the siege is real, then so is the citadel. People of faith in the United States of America enjoy more liberty and more real political power than any faith community in the developed world.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Freedom of Religion, Homosexuality, Supreme Court, Transsexuals

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela