On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two excellent decisions in two highly watched cases: Groff v. DeJoy and Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard.

In Groff, the Supreme Court significantly increased protection for religious freedom in most American workplaces.

In Students for Fair Admission, the Court essentially ended the practice of affirmative action in college admissions, partly because it was used to actively discriminate against certain races. 

Both of these decisions were excellent and wins for justice, the rule of law and liberty. I’ll give a breakdown of these cases here.

1. Groff

In a surprisingly unanimous opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a postman who got fired for refusing to work on Sundays in accordance with his religious beliefs. 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides generally that if an employee has a religious observance that conflicts with work requirements, the employer must offer an accommodation unless doing so would impose an “undue hardship” on the employer. Congress, in all its wisdom, never defined what “undue hardship” meant. Thus, in 1977, the Supreme Court said in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison that an “undue burden” was anything that imposed more than a de minimis cost on the employer. 

You don’t need to be a lawyer to see that this guts any meaningful protection for employees. 

Fortunately, Groff also saw that problem and fixed it. 

The Court held that an “undue hardship” exists when a “burden is substantial in the overall context of an employer’s business.” Thus, Groff now requires employers to do what Congress ordered them to do over 50 years ago: work with your employees unless you’re incurring substantial costs, not minor inconveniences.

This is great news for many religious Americans. Here in Alabama, many people were fired for refusing to take a COVID vaccine on religious grounds, even if they had natural immunity, were willing to mask and socially distance, or even paid for weekly testing themselves. Those people now have a greater chance of getting justice. Additionally, religious Americans who might not want to use a person’s preferred pronouns in the workplace have a greater chance of being accommodated. Finally, medical professionals will have much greater protection if they don’t want to participate in abortions or gender reassignment procedures.

2. Students for Fair Admissions

In Students for Fair Admissions, the Court ruled 6-3 that, essentially, affirmative action in college admissions is dead because it’s an inherently racist process.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion of the Court. As disappointing as Roberts has been at times, he has been surprisingly solid when it comes to these kinds of racial discrimination. His majority opinion for the Court pulled no punches talking about the original sin of slavery, the war it took to end it, and the horrors of Jim Crow. Chief Justice Roberts was unequivocal that there is no place in our constitutional order for racial discrimination, especially since we have fought so hard to end it. 

Thus, it is no different when it comes to preferring some races over others in college admissions. It’s racism, and the Court recognized it as such. The Court found Harvard and the University of North Carolina’s admission programs unconstitutional.

To spare y’all the advanced legalese, I will say that, technically, the Court did leave the possibility open of it happening again. However, Students for Fair Admission created such a high hill for affirmative action proponents to climb that I don’t think they’ll be able to do it. 

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a fantastic concurring opinion. Thomas, one of the Court’s black justices who grew up during Jim Crow and suffered racial discrimination himself, believed firmly that discrimination in favor of minorities now is not a valid answer to discrimination against minorities in the past. He drew heavily on the Declaration of Independence, arguing we are created equal and should be treated as such.

I do wish that Chief Justice Roberts would have applied the same logic in Alabama’s congressional redistricting case as he did here. I think the Chief saw some differences in how governing precedent applied in the two cases. In my mind, it’s always been as simple as this: if precedent is clearly wrong, the Court should not follow it. Nevertheless, Roberts did well in Students for Fair Admissions

On Friday, June 30, the Court will be releasing its final opinions: 303 Creative v. Elenis and the student loan cases. Those two are just as big - if not bigger - than today’s decisions. I hope the Court does just as well in those opinions as it did today. But in any event, the Court deserved to be commended for today’s decisions. 

Matt Clark is the President of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty, a conservative nonprofit law firm that fights for limited government, free markets, and strong families in the courts. His column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.

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