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This Business Owner Acted According to the Law. Then Unelected Officials Rewrote It to Punish Him.

This Business Owner Acted According to the Law. Then Unelected Officials Rewrote It to Punish Him.

By Maureen Collins posted on:
September 12, 2019

Words have meaning. And even the smallest words can have a big impact.

As someone who has worked in the funeral industry for over 30 years, Tom Rost knows the impact words can have on the grieving families he serves. Tom is the fourth generation in his family to own and operate Harris Funeral Homes in the Detroit, Michigan area. His son is the fifth.

Because Tom chooses his words carefully, he expected the federal government to do the same—he expected the words in a federal law to mean what they say as written.

But a body of unelected officials had other ideas.

Harris Funeral Homes was acting consistently with Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when it established dress codes for its male and female funeral directors. This is especially important for Harris Funeral Homes as it ministers to grieving families. Tom needs to maintain a professional dress and conduct code to ensure families can focus on processing their grief rather than on the funeral home and its employees.

In 2007, Harris Funeral Homes hired a male employee as a funeral director. The employee worked there for nearly six years before giving Tom a letter expressing a desire to begin dressing and presenting as a woman at work while interacting with grieving families. Tom agonized over this letter. After thoughtfully considering the interests of the employee, the grieving families Tom serves, and his female employees, Tom decided that he could not agree to the employee’s request.

This prompted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an unelected federal agency, to sue Tom. And Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has been representing him and Harris Funeral Homes in court ever since.

But wasn’t Tom acting consistently with the law?

Yes, he was. Title VII prevents discrimination on the basis of “sex” while allowing employers, like Tom, to have different dress codes for men and women in the workplace. But the EEOC concocted this case against Tom in order to redefine the word “sex” to mean “gender identity” in federal law.

If that doesn’t seem right to you, it’s because the EEOC bypassed the system created by our Founders to make and amend laws.

Our Founders wanted to make sure that the government officials who enact and change laws are close to the people. That’s why our legislative branch, which writes the law, is elected directly by the people. But the EEOC, an unelected agency in the executive branch, took matters into its own hands and rewrote the laws created by elected officials.

That goes directly against our system of government.

Words have meaning. And the words written into law by our elected officials shouldn’t change their meaning based on the political goals of unelected officials.

This October, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Tom’s case. And the ADF attorneys representing Harris Funeral Homes will ask the Supreme Court to make clear that unelected officials have no authority to rewrite laws passed by Congress.

People like Tom should be able to rely on what the law says, not what some wish it would say. Because words have meaning after all.

Maureen Collins

Maureen Collins

Digital Cultivation Manager

Maureen Collins serves as the Digital Cultivation Manager at Alliance Defending Freedom.

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