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Bench Memos

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Thomas Perez Versus Religious Liberty



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For ample reasons, President Obama’s nomination of Thomas Perez to be Secretary of Labor has generated lots of controversy.

I’ll add another reason: Perez, in his current capacity as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Justice Department, signed on to the Obama administration’s brief in the Hosanna-Tabor case, a brief that was remarkably hostile to the religious-liberty right of churches and other religious organizations to select their own faith leaders. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected the administration’s “remarkable view that the Religion Clauses have nothing to say about a religious organization’s freedom to select its own ministers” and that religious organizations are instead limited to the right to freedom of association that labor unions and social clubs enjoy. It understatedly observed that the administration’s position “is hard to square with the text of the First Amendment itself, which gives special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations.”

I would submit, at least as a good working rule, that anyone who put his name on the administration’s irresponsible brief ought to be presumed ineligible for advancement. 



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