Boston, MA—On behalf of its more than 1,000 members and supporters in Massachusetts, American Atheists has submitted testimony in support of H 767, a bill that would prevent for-profit business owners from discriminating on the basis of religious belief.
The bill would close the loopholes created by the U.S. Supreme Court in its Hobby Lobby and Masterpiece Cakeshop decisions.
Massachusetts law currently prohibits various forms of discrimination in areas like housing, employment, and public accommodations, on the grounds of race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, gender identity, disability, veteran status, and others. While current law provides specific limited exemptions for religious nonprofit organizations, such as allowing religious schools or houses of worship to give religion-based employment preferences, state law does not specifically address claims for-profit businesses.
For 50 years before the 2014 Hobby Lobby decision, the Supreme Court has not recognized a business owner’s religious objections as a valid argument for challenging neutral public accommodation laws. However, Hobby Lobby opened the flood gates for similar claims across the nation.
H 767 would explicitly prevent for-profit businesses organized under state law and similar businesses incorporated in other states but doing business in Massachusetts from raising religious claims for corporate exemptions to nondiscrimination laws. The bill would not amend Massachusetts’ nondiscrimination laws themselves, but would instead clarify that business corporations do not have the power under Massachusetts law to assert “based on the purported religious beliefs or moral convictions on the part of the corporation,” exemptions from or claims of defense against nondiscrimination laws.