Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey asked the Supreme Court to review a state court’s decision to exclude Christian jurors from an employment discrimination lawsuit.
The case in question involves a plaintiff who identified as a lesbian, according to a report from the Daily Caller.
The state court had determined Christian jurors would remain impartial, countering plaintiff’s attorney’s claims they might view gay individuals as “less than everybody else”
The court removed the Christian jurors anyway “to err on the side of caution,” according to the report.
Bailey’s petition to the Supreme Court raises the question of whether the 14th Amendment prohibits courts from excluding jurors based on their religious beliefs, like it does for race and sex.
“Jurors can be excluded, of course, if their religious views in fact make them biased – just like jurors can be excluded if their race or sex in fact makes them biased,” the attorney general acknowledged in his complaint to the high court.
Bailey emphasizes, though, that courts shouldn’t make assumptions based on stereotypes about race, sex or religion.
Jean Finney sued her former employer, the Missouri Department of Corrections, alleging retaliation from a coworker after entering a same-sex relationship with the coworker’s ex-spouse.
During the trial, Finney’s attorney questioned jurors about their “conservative Christian” beliefs and sought to exclude those with “traditional religious views on sexuality.”
The Missouri Court of Appeals ruled after review that the lower court’s decision did not breach the Constitution. It concluded jurors were excluded due to their “religiously based beliefs” and not because they were Christians.
Bailey, in his petition, argued that the court’s rationale lacks a clear boundary.
He said excluding religious jurors deemed fair from a case involving a lesbian plaintiff set the law on a slippery slope.
Using the same logic, he said, Mormons could be excluded from a case about a sports bar due to their views on alcohol; Jews could be excluded from a case involving driving on a Saturday; and Muslims could be excluded from a case about a restaurant serving pork.
Missouri’s attorney general highlighted that most cases where jurors are excluded based on religion involve racial minorities. This raises concerns about whether religion is being used as a cover for racial bias.
“As Attorney General, I will protect the Constitution and Missourians’ right to be free from religious discrimination, which is explicitly enshrined in the Constitution,” Bailey said.
“The Constitution isn’t up for debate,” he continued. “My office will use every legal mechanism available to us to defend the fundamental right to be free from religious discrimination, inside and outside of the jury box.”