17 states ask Supreme Court to protect postal worker’s right to honor Sabbath

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The attorneys general of 17 states are asking the Supreme Court to take up the civil rights lawsuit of an evangelical Christian postal worker in Pennsylvania who quit the U.S. Postal Service after it refused to accommodate his wish not to work on the Sunday Sabbath.

The legal filing comes as the Supreme Court is poised to begin its new session on Oct. 3, its first with Biden appointee Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson on the bench. It also comes as the high court has become increasingly protective of First Amendment-based religious protections in recent years.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit turned down Gerald Groff’s appeal earlier this year. The petition (pdf) in the case, Groff v. DeJoy, court file 22-174, was filed with the Supreme Court on Aug. 23. Louis DeJoy, the U.S. Postmaster General, is represented by the U.S. Department of Justice. Groff is represented by First Liberty Institute of Plano, Texas.

“It’s a fundamental right of every citizen to freely exercise their religious freedom,” said West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey, a Republican, according to TV station WBOY.

“Many spend most of their time at work and people should not be expected to choose between their jobs and their faith. That’s absurd. No one should be forced to sacrifice their dedication to their religion in order to keep a job.”

Morrisey and the attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia, filed a friend-of-the-court brief (pdf) with the high court on Sept. 26, urging it to hear Groff’s appeal.

According to Morrisey, Groff began working as a mail carrier for the U.S.P.S. in 2012. Groff was what is called a rural carrier associate, meaning he filled in for absent career employees. Groff worked at the Quarryville, Pennsylvania, post office until he transferred to the Holtwood post office in August 2016. The postal service initially tried to accommodate his request not to work on  Sundays, but he quit in 2019 after the agency stopped accommodating him. He sued claiming the postal service discriminated against him by refusing to accommodate his religion under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The friend-of-the-court brief states that “Title VII’s protections flowed from an expansive, state law-grounded view of religious liberty. Its text embodies the same. It is time to bring ‘Title VII’s right to religious exercise’ back into the fold.”

Fifteen federal lawmakers also filed a friend-of-the-court brief (pdf) urging the Supreme Court to take up Groff’s appeal.

Among the lawmakers are Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), along with Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.).

The lawmakers said in their brief that the Supreme Court should “reject the atextual definition of ‘undue hardship’ it adopted in the 1977 decision of TWA v. Hardison,” an earlier workplace religious accommodation on which the court ruled.

The court’s definition of the phrase “blatantly contradicted both the words Congress unanimously enacted in the 1972 amendments to Title VII and the Congressional purpose stated in the legislative record.”

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar has not yet filed a brief in response to the petition.

The Epoch Times reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice for comment but had not received a reply as of press time.

This article by Matthew Vadum appeared Sept. 28, 2022, in The Epoch Times.