by Katie Eyer, Associate Professor at Rutgers Law School
* A separate blog post by Professor Eyer on this case addresses the Sixth Circuit’s analysis of the sex discrimination claims raised by the Plaintiff, and is available here.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby—extending the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to for-profit entities—the specter of possible RFRA defenses to federal anti-discrimination claims has loomed large. In the recently decided EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, the Sixth Circuit takes the Supreme Court at its word in Hobby Lobby that such defenses will not succeed—that the government has compelling and narrowly tailored interests in eradicating employment discrimination. As importantly, it reins in several broader trends towards expanding RFRA far beyond the bounds of pre-Smith free exercise law—trends that might otherwise threaten to turn RFRA into an essentially automatic exemption from generally applicable federal laws.