SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a 17-state amicus brief, led by Indiana, in support of Moody Bible Institute in its case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Moody seeks to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a former employee under First Amendment case law that prohibits courts from inquiring into the reasons for churches and other religious organizations’ decisions to hire or retain employees who carry out religious functions.
Janay Garrick joined the Moody Bible Institute in December 2014 on an annual contract. As part of renewing the contract each year, Moody had to sign the school’s doctrinal statement. Later in her tenure with Moody, Garrick publicly opposed Moody’s religious position on female pastors – which was included in the doctrinal statement she had repeatedly signed. According to Moody, Garrick confirmed she disagreed with Moody’s belief that only men should serve as pastors, and as such, her contract was not renewed. A district court decided that this suit could proceed to determine whether sex-based discrimination occurred in this case, leading to Moody’s appeal to the Seventh Circuit.
As the attorneys general write in their filing, “The First Amendment provides that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ Together, the Religion Clauses ‘protect the right of churches and other religious institutions to decide matters of faith and doctrine without government intrusion.’ They also protect the ‘autonomy’ of religious institutions ‘with respect to internal management decisions that are essential to the institution’s central mission.’… The Clauses guarantee ‘religious organizations, an independence from secular control or manipulation, in short, power to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.’”
Joining Indiana and Utah on this brief were the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.