Religious Exemption Upheld

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The Washington State Supreme Court issued an opinion today in Ockletree v. Franciscan Health Services affirming that exempting religious organizations from the Washington Law Against Discrimination does not violate Washington’s Constitution, which guarantees “absolute freedom” in matters of religion. Helsell Fetterman’s Religious and Social Service Practice group filed an amicus brief in the matter on behalf of a number of religious communities pointing out the ways in which striking the exemption would entangle the court system in religious matters and interfere with the ability to carry out their protected right to fulfill their missions. The majority agreed with the amici that religious organizations should be treated differently than secular nonprofits because of the guarantees of religious freedom in our State Constitution.

Helsell represents a number of small religious communities from numerous faith traditions whose ability to carry out their religious missions would be compromised or eliminated if the Court ignored their Constitutional rights.

About the Authors

Karen Kalzer

Ms. Kalzer practices employment and education law with an emphasis on defending complex litigation for communities of faith, non-profits, schools and private employers.

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