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AG Derek Schmidt joins effort to protect religious exemption, liberty in First Amendment appeal

Release Date: Jun 23, 2021

TOPEKA – (June 23, 2021) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has asked a federal appeals court to affirm a lower court ruling that protects religious liberty and rights of conscience for citizens and institutions of faith.

Schmidt joined 15 other state attorneys general this week in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in the case of Maxon v. Fuller Theological Seminary. At issue in the case is whether religious schools can admit and exclude students based upon their religious beliefs and resultant codes of conduct.

The brief argues in support of Fuller that the First Amendment protects the right of religious schools to select and govern students in a manner that conforms with their religious beliefs, without government interference.

“Freedom of conscience is one of the bedrock guarantees of the First Amendment," the attorneys general wrote in their brief. "Without it, our pluralistic society is imperiled. Even as the Supreme Court has blazed new trails in the areas of sex and marriage, it has reaffirmed that sincere religious beliefs must be respected and protected. Any ruling from this Court must recognize that the First Amendment protects the autonomy of religious schools to govern their students in a way that is consistent with their sincerely held religious tenets.”

The plaintiffs in the case sued Fuller because they were dismissed from the seminary after entering into same-sex marriages, knowingly violating the institution’s community standards, which they had accepted as terms of enrollment.

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the claims against Fuller in October 2020, finding that Fuller qualified for a religious exemption pursuant to the U.S. Department of Education’s Religious Freedom Rule.

A copy of the brief in Maxon v. Fuller Theological Seminary can be found at https://bit.ly/3zM1eVH.

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