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HomeNewsJewish, Islamic groups back up Catholic school in lawsuit challenging new Michigan...

Jewish, Islamic groups back up Catholic school in lawsuit challenging new Michigan law

A Catholic school in Michigan that is challenging a new state law in federal court on religious freedom grounds is finding support from organizations of other religious faiths.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish of Grand Rapids, and its school, Sacred Heart Academy, filed a lawsuit against last year against the state of Michigan after the enactment of new civil rights legislation that left out religious exemptions to its sexual orientation and gender identity policies. 

According to the lawsuit, without a religious exemption, the school would be forced to hire faculty and staff who lead lives that don’t line up with Catholic teachings. 

Since the case was appealed to the Sixth Circuit, Sacred Heart earned support from the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty and the Religious Freedom Institute’s Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team. The groups say that the new state law would have “an especially deleterious effect” on minority faiths. 

“Though the facts underlying this appeal do not involve Islamic or Jewish expression or beliefs, the issue of religious entities’ right to hire coreligionists is of great concern to all faith groups and to minority faiths especially,” the brief filed in support of Sacred Heart states. 

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“In particular, amici fear that the misapplication or retrenchment of the coreligionist exemption would have an especially deleterious effect on adherents of minority religious faiths who often organize collectively to learn, teach, act, and serve as an expression and exercise of their faith,” the brief says.

Polish immigrants founded Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish over a century ago. The parish-run academy says that it exists to support parents by providing their children with a classical Catholic education and serves nearly 400 children from pre-K through 12th grade.

The Michigan Legislature last year amended the Michigan Civil Rights Act to cover sexual orientation and gender identity but “provided no protection for religious organizations that believe marriage between one man and one woman and the immutability of sex support human flourishing,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the civil rights firm representing parents of Sacred Heart students in the lawsuit. 

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“The missing protections mean that the change to the law requires Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish and its school, Sacred Heart Academy, to hire faculty and staff who lead lives in direct opposition to the Catholic faith, speak messages that violate Church doctrine, and decline to articulate Catholic beliefs in teaching students and when advertising the school to prospective students or job applicants,” ADF said. 

The Jewish Coalition and Islam Religious Freedom Action amicus brief argues that a “coreligionist” exemption “serves significant constitutional interests by deferring to religious organizations’ own determination of which roles and responsibilities are so tied to the group’s religious mission that they may be filled only by fellow believers.”

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“Properly applied, the exemption preserves the autonomy of religious groups; recognizes and respects their unique knowledge of and expertise in their religious beliefs, missions, motivations, and practices; preserves the free exercise rights of religious groups; and prevents state entanglement with religious groups and doctrines,” the groups state in the court document. 

Michigan Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel is fighting the parents’ lawsuit in court. The groups said in their amicus brief the “alternative” being a “discretionary exemption scheme that starts with a burdensome application process and ends by hoping that a bureaucrat will deign to dole out an exemption” proffered by Nessel doesn’t alleviate their concerns.

“Rather, it exacerbates them, raises significant entanglement concerns, and shows that the state regime is not a neutral and generally applicable law,” the groups wrote. 

Fox News Digital reached out to the attorney general’s office Friday for comment but did not hear back by time of publication.

​U.S. News Today on Fox News

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