Attorney General Chris Carr joined 17 states Thursday in filing a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court to support the First Amendment rights of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. The Mission is seeking Supreme Court review of a recent ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court that denied the faith-based charity’s First Amendment right to hire employees who share its faith.
“The free exercise of religion is a critical right protected by our Constitution, and religious freedom is central to who we are as Americans,” said Attorney General Carr. “We joined this coalition to protect the rights of religious groups to practice their beliefs without undue interference by the government.”
Attorney General Carr and his colleagues argue that the Washington Supreme Court erred in limiting First Amendment protections to hiring decisions related solely to ministers. Rather, the First Amendment more broadly protects a religious nonprofit’s exercise of religion, including the right to hire regular employees of a common faith. As the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized, that right is vital to church autonomy and the free exercise of religion.
Attorney General Carr was joined by the Attorneys General of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.
The amicus brief of the Attorneys General can be read here.