Missouri Attorney General Seeks Supreme Court Review of Jury Removal Based on Religious Beliefs

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey has filed a request with the Supreme Court, urging it to review a state court’s decision to dismiss Christian jurors from an employment discrimination lawsuit where the plaintiff identified as lesbian. The case centers around whether the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits courts from excluding jurors based on their religious beliefs.

In the lawsuit, Jean Finney sued her former employer, the Missouri Department of Corrections, over alleged retaliation by a coworker following her same-sex relationship with the coworker’s former spouse. Finney’s attorney posed questions to potential jurors to determine if they held “conservative Christian” beliefs, seeking to remove those with “traditional religious views on sexuality.”

While the court found that these jurors would be impartial, it still decided to remove them “to err on the side of caution.” Now, Bailey is raising concerns about the court’s reasoning.

“Jurors can be excluded, of course, if their religious views in fact make them biased – just like jurors can be excluded if their race or sex in fact makes them biased,” the petition states. “But this Court’s precedents make clear that courts cannot assume, based on stereotypes about race or sex, that a person will be biased. The same should be true of religion.”

Bailey contends that the court’s approach has no clear boundary and could potentially be misused in other cases. He stated, “If religious jurors determined by the court to be fair can be struck simply because the case happens to involve a lesbian plaintiff, then to ‘err on the side of caution,’ a court could categorically strike all Mormons from a contract dispute involving a sports bar because of their religious views on alcohol.”

He further pointed out the potential for religious discrimination to be used as a pretext for racial discrimination. Bailey emphasized his commitment to protecting constitutional rights and combating religious discrimination.

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 26: The U.S. Supreme Court building is seen on June 26, 2023 in Washington, DC. Today marks the 8th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case that guaranteed the right to marriage for same-sex couples. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“As Attorney General, I will protect the Constitution and Missourians’ right to be free from religious discrimination, which is explicitly enshrined in the Constitution,” Bailey affirmed. “The Constitution isn’t up for debate. My office will use every legal mechanism available to us to defend the fundamental right to be free from religious discrimination, inside and outside of the jury box.”

The Supreme Court’s consideration of this case could have significant implications for the intersection of religious beliefs, jury selection, and equal protection under the law.

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