Press Releases

Supreme Court Urged to Protect Right of Religious Organization to Hire People Who Share Beliefs

September 2, 2021

News Release
For Immediate Release: 9.2.21
Contact: Lacey McNiel,
Direct: 972-941-4453

Supreme Court Urged to Protect Right of Religious Organization to Hire People Who Share Beliefs
First Liberty Institute files friend-of-the-court brief in key religious liberty case at the Supreme Court of the United States.

Washington, DC—First Liberty Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission v. Woods, in which the U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to decide whether the government can require religious organizations like Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission to hire people who do not share the organization’s religious beliefs.

You can read the brief here.

“Who a religious organization hires is a sacred right protected by the First Amendment,” said Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO, and Chief Counsel for First Liberty Institute.  “It’s appalling that any court concluded that a religious organization should be forced to hire people who openly oppose its beliefs. Religious organizations should never be forced by the government to abandon their beliefs in order to fulfill their mission to love and serve others.”

Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission is a nonprofit ministry that provides services to the homeless throughout greater Seattle, Washington.  The primary mission of SUGM is to “is to bring the love of Jesus and hope for a new life to our homeless neighbors.”  As such, the Mission operates according to its religious beliefs and requires employees to share its beliefs.  Matthew Woods, an attorney, applied with the Mission for a position as staff attorney.  Woods sued the ministry after it declined to hire him because he doesn’t share the ministry’s religious beliefs.  After a Washington state trial court dismissed the lawsuit, the Washington Supreme Court reversed, offering a narrow reading of the First Amendment that could strip religious nonprofits of their right to hire only people who share their religious beliefs.

According to First Liberty’s brief, “The court ignored all other First Amendment issues that could arise when the state threatens the ability of religious nonprofit organizations, including churches, synagogues, and mosques, to hire employees who share the organizations’ religious beliefs. Most importantly, the court ignored the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious autonomy and independence from government entanglement. The religious autonomy doctrine, rooted in both Religion Clauses, protects the right of churches and other religious organizations to decide for themselves matters of faith, doctrine, and governance.”

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at or by calling 972-941-4453.

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