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Justice Alito sounds alarm after Christians denied jury duty in state court


WASHINGTON (BP) – The barring of two Christians from jury duty in a trial involving a lesbian is evidence that Christians with a biblical worldview are increasingly seen as bigots, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said after Missouri asked the High Court to review the ruling.

Such treatment of Christians is what he warned of in his dissent in the Obergefell v. Hodges legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, Alito said in “reluctantly” concurring with the court’s decision not to hear Missouri’s appeal Feb. 20.

“In this case, the court below reasoned that a person who still holds traditional religious views on questions of sexual morality is presumptively unfit to serve on a jury in a case involving a party who is a lesbian” Alito wrote. “That holding exemplifies the danger that I anticipated in Obergefell v. Hodges, … namely, that Americans who do not hide their adherence to traditional religious beliefs about homosexual conduct will be ‘labeled as bigots and treated as such’ by the government.”

While the High Court indicated in the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that it should not be used to discriminate against those holding biblical views of marriage, Alito said he’s “afraid that this admonition is not being heeded by our society.”

Alito had predicted in his dissent that the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling would “be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” The decision, which equated the denial of same-sex marriage to the denial of equal treatment for African Americans and women, “will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent,” Alito wrote in 2015.

Alito called to mind Obergefell v. Hodges after the Supreme Court declined to hear Missouri’s appeal of a court ruling that dismissed two jurors in a 2021 employment discrimination case brought by Jean Finney, a lesbian. In the original trial in the Circuit Court of Buchanan County, Finney’s attorney successfully moved to strike two Christian jurors for cause, arguing that “there’s no way” anyone who sees a gay person as a sinner “could ever fairly consider a case involving a lesbian plaintiff.”

In its appeal to the High Court, Missouri challenged the state appeals court’s decision affirming the removing of the jurors for their religious beliefs. The appeals court agreed with the lower court that jurors who believed the plaintiff’s homosexuality was sinful could not be impartial in hearing the case.

The Missouri Court of Appeals’ reasoning is cause for concern, Alito said. The High Court should address such rulings at an appropriate time, he said, but asserted that a state law procedural issue complicates hearing the current case.

“I would vote to grant review in this case were it not for the fact that the Court of Appeals concluded that the Department of Corrections did not properly preserve an objection to dismissal of the two potential jurors and, thus, that their dismissal was reviewable under state law only for plain error,” Alito wrote. “Because this state-law question would complicate our review, I reluctantly concur in the denial of certiorari.”

The free exercise of religion must be protected in courts of law, Alito said.

“The judiciary, no less than the other branches of State and Federal Government, must respect people’s fundamental rights, and among these are the right to the free exercise of religion and the right to the equal protection of the laws,” he said. “When a court, a quintessential state actor, finds that a person is ineligible to serve on a jury because of his or her religious beliefs, that decision implicates fundamental rights.”