Supreme Court To Hear Civil Rights Religious Accommodation Case

April 15, 2004 ( - The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires accommodation for religious beliefs.

The nation’s highest court agreed to hear the case, which surrounds a Baptist Indiana State Police officer’s refusal to work in casino due to a perceived conflict with his religious beliefs, according to a Legal Times report.

Benjamin Endres Jr, the plaintiff, contends his religious beliefs prohibit participation in, or the facilitation of, gambling. Thus, when the Indiana State Police assigned Endres as a full-time gaming commission agent at an Indiana casino, Endres refused to report to work and was subsequently dismissed.

Endres filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, which the state police argued should be dismissed since Indiana officials were protected from the Title VII claim by the state’s sovereign immunity. U.S. District Judge Robert Miller Jr disagreed, and said Endres could proceed with his claim.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision, finding Endres had not made a valid Title VII claim. In the opinion, Judge Frank Easterbrook said the law could not be interpreted to allow police or firefighters to pick and choose which laws to enforce or which fires to extinguish.

“Juggling assignments to make each compatible with the varying religious beliefs of a heterogeneous police force would be daunting to managers and difficult for other officers who would be called on to fill in for the objectors,” Easterbrook said. Easterbrook’s opinion did not address the state sovereign immunity question.

The case is Endres v. Indiana State Police, No. 03-1183.