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WASHINGTON — An Indiana state police officer who was fired after refusing an assignment at a casino for religious reasons is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize his termination as a civil rights violation. At the court’s private conference on Friday, the justices will consider Endres v. Indiana State Police, 03-1183, which tests whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires the police agency to accommodate his religious beliefs. The Indiana State Police in South Bend assigned Benjamin Endres Jr. as a full-time gaming commission agent at the Blue Chips Casino in Michigan City, Ind. His job description listed gambling-related responsibilities, such as verifying gambling profits, investigating public complaints about the gaming system and performing license investigations for the casinos and their employees. Endres claimed these duties would force him to violate his Baptist beliefs, which bar him from participating in or facilitating gambling. Endres asked his employer to reassign him. His request was denied, and when Endres failed to report to work he was fired. After Endres filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, the police agency sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that Indiana officials were protected from the Title VII claim by the state’s sovereign immunity. But in December 2001, U.S. District Judge Robert Miller Jr. ruled against the state, saying that Endres could go ahead with his Title VII claim. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals saw the case differently. In an opinion last year by Judge Frank Easterbrook, the Seventh Circuit reversed Miller, ruling that Endres had not made a valid Title VII claim. Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer joined in the opinion, which did not touch on the state immunity question. Easterbrook said the law could not be interpreted to allow police or firefighters to pick and choose which laws to enforce or which fires to extinguish. Noting religious preferences such as Catholics’ opposition to abortions and Jewish and Muslim bans on eating pork, Easterbrook asked rhetorically whether the law requires the state police “to assign Unitarians to guard the abortion clinic, Catholics to prevent thefts from liquor stores, and Baptists to investigate claims that supermarkets misweigh bacon and shellfish?” Easterbrook continued: “Juggling assignments to make each compatible with the varying religious beliefs of a heterogeneous police force would be daunting to managers and difficult for other officers who would be called on to fill in for the objectors.” In November, the Seventh Circuit declined to review the ruling en banc, but three judges dissented, arguing that Easterbrook’s ruling is at odds with other circuits and with the language of Title VII, which does not make an exception for law enforcement agencies when it requires employers to make “reasonable accommodation” for employees’ religious practices. The dissent, written by Judge Kenneth Ripple, noted that Endres was objecting only to a full-time casino assignment and that he did not object to enforcing laws there as a police officer with more general duties. Judges Ilana Rovner and Anne Williams joined Ripple’s dissent from the denial of en banc review. In his petition now before the Supreme Court, Endres argues that he should be allowed to pursue his lawsuit. He is represented by a team of lawyers from Jenner & Block in Chicago, as well as the Rutherford Institute, a religious liberties organization in Charlottesville, Va. Law enforcement employers in the Seventh Circuit “are now exempt from the religious accommodation provisions of Title VII, even if an accommodation for the employee’s religious beliefs would impose no hardship on the employer,” writes Jenner & Block’s Jeremy Taylor, counsel of record before the Supreme Court. The petition continues, “This judicially created exemption from the requirements of Title VII is wholly unsupported by the text of history of Title VII and threatens the religious freedom of public servants in the Seventh Circuit.” In opposition, Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter defends the Seventh Circuit’s opinion and says the case is “not worthy of Supreme Court review.” “The Seventh Circuit properly held that petitioner’s demand was unreasonable,” Carter writes. The appeals court decision, he argues, “is based on sound policy that ultimately protects more religious freedom than the alternative.” If officers were allowed to pick and choose their assignments for religious reasons, the brief explains, then “those who engage in conduct that mainstream religions condemn may find themselves unprotected.” Adina Matusow is an editorial intern with Legal Times , a Recorder affiliate based in Washington, D.C.

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