by: Fr. Nicholas A. Marziani, Jr., D.Min Pastor Emeritus, St. James Church
Well, it’s about time the highest court of this no longer so fair land pay more than lip service to the real substance of the First Amendment to the Constitution, as well as positive law enshrined in landmark federal statues designed to protect the civil and religious rights and sensibilities of all Americans.
Just down the road a bit from us off of I-95 and I-4 is that wonderful theme-park-city-of-renown, commonly known as Orlando. Its European derived name is a hybrid of Italian, French, Spanish, and German . . . a polyglot of peoples, many of whom, and then some, visit the town every year!
It is also the originating locus of an important case about to be taken up by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Back on Christmas Eve of 2014 a Seventh Day Adventist by the name of Darrell Patterson filed suit against a well-known drugstore chain, which will for my purpose here remain anonymous (you can always Google these things and discover all kinds of juicy particulars!).
Mr. Patterson simply wanted the store to extend “reasonable accommodation” to his deeply held belief that he ought to be in church on Saturday, and desist from ordinary labor. He requested shift swaps and such, but no dice. The chain’s attorneys insisted on a dubious interpretation of the 1972 version of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which required employers to accommodate religious practices unless they otherwise would incur “undue hardship” in do so. That legal test had morphed by 1977 into employers simply being required to meet a very minimal threshold of “hardship” in employee religious accommodations, a clear slap in the face of folks like Mr. Patterson, citing the putative overriding issue of “separation of church and state.”
Long story short – the case went up from Orlando to a federal appellate court in Atlanta, which sustained the lower court’s ruling in favor of the employer, and there the matter rested until just weeks ago as a newly constituted and religion friendly SCOTUS decided to look further into the case.
In a society like ours everybody gets to bend, just a bit, so as to live in harmony with one’s neighbors. Although I am a Roman Catholic priest, once upon a decade years ago my wife and I attended services at a Seventh Day Adventist Church in West Virginia. They are fine people, and deserve to be treated with respect, like anybody else. So here’s to SCOTUS – may they do the right thing here, and help teach the world what the USA really stands for! Amen!