People of faith across America, including here in North Carolina, had good reason to celebrate Independence Day this year. In the week preceding the July Fourth holiday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down two landmark decisions which significantly clarified and extended constitutional protection of religious liberty in American life and law.
With a hostile administration in Washington waging war on religious liberty at every opportunity, the Supreme Court’s decisions no doubt should give Christians, and other religious people seeking to live their own faiths, hope for better times ahead — at least as far as law and courts are concerned.
In the first case, Groff v. DeJoy, the Supreme Court granted a major victory to former postal carrier Gerald Groff against the U.S. Postal Service, after Groff lost his job for observing the Sunday Sabbath.
Groff was a former postal employee from rural Pennsylvania who joined the postal service because it fit his desire to have a career that also allowed him to honor the Lord’s Day.
At the time he joined, the USPS didn’t deliver on Sundays, but when Amazon purchased a contract requiring the USPS to deliver packages on Sundays, Gerald was forced to choose to either work Sundays or give up his job. While he was willing to work with the post office to find a reasonable accommodation, the post office was not.
Rather than resign, Groff filed suit against the USPS and won.
The court held that federal law requires workplaces to accommodate their religious employees unless doing so would cause “substantial costs” for the business — a high bar to overcome.
Previously, employers could avoid granting religious accommodations to employees of faith simply by pointing to “minimal effects” — a low standard that afforded virtually no protection for workers.
As a result of Groff’s personal fight to practice his religion, Americans will not be forced to choose between their faith and their job. After years of evading the issue, the Supreme Court now agrees that religious employees deserve meaningful legal protections.
The second case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, is potentially even more far-reaching in its scope and application.
In what is truly a landmark victory for free speech, the Supreme Court struck down a Colorado law that would have punished a Christian graphic designer who declined to design a website for a same-sex ceremony that violated her biblical religious beliefs.
“The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands,” Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority.
Believe me, this is a blockbuster decision — not just for Christians — but for all Americans who believe in free speech.
With an aggressive secular culture increasingly attempting to force ideological conformity on people of faith — often under threat of state coercion — this pair of court decisions is a welcome sign of hope.
While both of these big rulings from the Supreme Court are being hailed by constitutional-minded Americans and faithful Christians, LGBTQ activists and leftist politicians are bitterly vowing political revenge, even on the Supreme Court itself.
Yet clothed in the full armor of God — and the Constitution — we must stand firm against whatever the critics throw at us. Too much is at stake.
All in all, however, it’s been a good week for God and country, and North Carolinians will benefit from both of these historic decisions as they live their daily faith in freedom.
As for Baptists, like me, let’s give a nod to our proud heritage by remembering our colonial Baptist ancestors, often jailed and beaten for their preaching, who insisted on incorporating the First Amendment into the Constitution — without which neither of these landmark cases could have been won.