Bench Memos

Re: Obama DOJ Picks a Fight Against Religious Freedom

A follow-up to my post two weeks ago about DOJ’s aggressive position against religious liberty—and the religious Left—in the pending Supreme Court case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC:

One of the attorneys on the DOJ brief is Aaron D. Schuham. Here’s some of what Hans von Spakovsky has to say about Schuham in the latest in Pajamas Media’s remarkable series of articles exposing the politicized hiring of career attorneys by DOJ’s Civil Rights Division:

Mr. Schuham is another newly hired deputy chief in the Employment Section, and easily rates as one of the more radical attorneys to join the Division during Eric Holder’s reign. For seven years prior to coming to DOJ, Mr. Schuham worked as the legislative director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization that seeks to eradicate any vestige of faith or religion in the public sphere. The very idea that the Obama administration would put the former legislative director of this organization in charge of enforcing the prohibition against religious discrimination in the Civil Rights Act is offensive.

A reader passes along that Schuham’s same-sex partner is (or, at least as of the 2009 White House Easter Egg Roll, was) Chris Anders, federal policy director for the ACLU’s LGBT Rights project.

Another of the attorneys on the DOJ brief is Sharon M. McGowan. As another reader calls to my attention, McGowan was also a staffer on the ACLU’s LGBT Rights project, and the New York Times announced last year her same-sex marriage to the Family Equality Council’s “federal lobbyist on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender family issues.”

Thus, insofar as personnel is policy,* it may well be that the Obama DOJ’s hostility to the ministerial exemption in the Hosanna-Tabor case is part and parcel of a broader ideological agenda that would have gay causes trump religious liberty.

* I will note that Schuham and McGowan are only two of seven DOJ attorneys on the brief—and apparently the two most junior—so I don’t want to overstate their possible influence. That said, I’ll also note that just as I didn’t undertake any independent research on the relevant ideological commitments of Schuham and McGowan (I’ve just verified what readers have passed along), I haven’t done so with respect to any of the other DOJ attorneys. So I don’t know whether information about them would be reinforcing or countervailing (though I’d be willing to bet on the former).


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