Leslie Griffin on Religion, Free Exercise and Women’s Equality

Leslie C. Griffin (Houston) has posted to SSRN her essay Smith and Women’s Equality, 32 Cardozo L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2011).   Here is the abstract:

This essay was part of a Cardozo symposium celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the landmark free exercise case, Employment Division v. Smith. I argue that full enforcement of Smith is essential to women’s equality. I explain that male-dominated religious communities have repeatedly opposed women’s rights by seeking not only to exempt themselves from the law of women’s equality but also to change the content of that law to undermine women’s rights. Although Smith has given women’s groups some victories over this anti-egalitarian trend, resistance to Smith and refusal to apply its holding have harmed women’s rights.

In Part I, I explain why Smith is necessary to support women’s equality in the family and reproductive rights. In Part II I argue that if Smith were taken seriously, the courts would not continue to dismiss sex discrimination lawsuits under the invented ministerial exemption and church autonomy theories of the First Amendment, and the legislatures would not persistently seek to undo Smith’s regime by exempting religious groups from the law.

The full essay is available here.

Professor Griffin makes a similar point on the American Constitution Society blog (here) in arguing against the ministerial exception.

-Bridget Crawford

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