Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin on Friday signed a new law that strengthens Commonwealth protections for religious freedom, clarifying that free speech for “religion” includes any outward manifestation of religious faith.
House Bill 1063 amends the Virginia Code relating to public housing, employment, and housing; prohibits discrimination based on religion. Religion as now defined by the state includes any outward expression of religious faith, including adherence to religious practices of dress and grooming and the wearing or display of objects or symbols religious.
The law protects the use of symbols, such as crosses or the Star of David, but also grooming practices, including the beard, according to Christian Headlines.
The bill was introduced by Delegate Irene Shin, who represents the 86th District which is part of Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Gregory S. Baylor applauded the new Virginia law and also commended Youngkin and the Virginia General Assembly for clarifying the expression of faith in the law.
“All Americans are guaranteed the right to freedom of expression and the free exercise of religion. Government officials have a duty to protect and promote these freedoms. HB 1063 provides necessary and helpful clarification in law to help ensure that Virginians will not be discriminated against simply for openly expressing their religious beliefs,” Baylor said in a statement.
“Virginia law prohibits discrimination based on religion in multiple contexts, but fails to define the actual term ‘religion,’ which can leave Virginians vulnerable to backlash against expressions of their faith. We commend the Governor Youngkin and the Virginia General Assembly for resolving this ambiguity so that Virginians can live their faith freely without fear of government sanctions,” the statement concludes.
As CBN News reported, outward expressions of faith have come under fire in recent years.
In February, we told you the story of Malinda Babineaux, a practicing Pentecostal Apostolic Christian, who told her new employer Wellpath that she preferred to wear a skirt because of her religious beliefs. Wellpath refused his request and rescinded his job offer.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit in September 2020 on Babineaux’s behalf, citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination against religious beliefs. . The lawsuit also points out that Babineaux had worn a scrub skirt in previous nursing jobs, including at a juvenile correctional facility.
Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Employers are required to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s religious beliefs, unless it would be unreasonably burdensome.
As part of the settlement, Wellpath was to pay the nurse back wages, as well as compensatory damages of $75,000. The company will also ensure that employees receive anti-discrimination training which includes dress and grooming.
Just two months ago, the United States Supreme Court heard the case of a Washington state high school football coach who was fired from his job for praying silently on the field. after the matches.
Coach Joe Kennedy has been engaged in a legal battle with the Bremerton School District since 2015. The district claimed his actions violated the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution.
As CBN News previously reported, Kennedy received praise from several players, and even members of the opposing team, for having the courage to peacefully show his Christian faith.
However, school officials claimed that such prayers could give the impression that the district endorsed Coach Kennedy’s public prayers, creating potential endorsement of religion. They eventually fired Kennedy, who calls it a violation of his right to free speech.
In recent pleadings in the high court, several conservative judges appeared to lean in favor of Coach Kennedy.
Bremerton High School’s attorney struggled to answer Judge Gorsuch’s question about whether a coach making the sign of the cross was government speech the district could restrict. Judge Thomas and others pressed on whether the district would censor a kneeling person for non-religious reasons, according to Liberty Counsel who represents Kennedy.
The Supreme Court’s order in this case will be issued before the court’s 2022 summer recess, which will be in late June or early July.
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