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Parents File Lawsuit Against Michigan Officials Over Civil Rights Law Amendment

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Religious Rights vs. Civil Rights

Parents from Sacred Heart Academy in Grand Rapids have filed a federal lawsuit against Michigan officials after a civil rights law was amended to allow the state to dictate who the school hires. The Michigan Civil Rights Act was amended to cover sexual orientation and gender identity but did not provide protection for religious organizations that believe in traditional marriage and the immutability of sex.

Violation of Catholic Faith

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who is representing Sacred Heart, stated that the missing protections in the amended law require the school to hire faculty and staff who do not adhere to Catholic beliefs. This means that they would have to hire individuals who speak messages that violate Church doctrine and decline to articulate Catholic beliefs when teaching students or advertising the school.

Support from Minority Faiths

The lawsuit has gained support from the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty and the Religious Freedom Institute’s Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team. Both groups argue that the legislation will have an especially negative impact on minority faiths. They believe that the misapplication or retrenchment of the exemption for coreligionists would hinder the ability of adherents of minority religious faiths to organize collectively and practice their faith.

Preserving Religious Autonomy

The Jewish and Muslim groups, in their joint brief filed in court, argue that the "coreligionist" exemption serves significant constitutional interests by allowing religious organizations to determine which roles and responsibilities can only be filled by fellow believers. They believe that properly applying this exemption preserves the autonomy of religious groups and prevents state entanglement with religious groups and doctrines.

A Century of Catholic Education

The Sacred Heart Academy, founded by Polish immigrants over a century ago, exists to support parents by providing their children with a classical Catholic education. It serves nearly 400 children from pre-K through 12th grade.