The Story of Harris Funeral Homes
The ACLU is targeting this family-owned funeral home to redefine “sex” to mean “gender identity.” The outcome of this case could have widespread consequences for everyone.
For more than 100 years, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes has been ministering to grieving families in Michigan. Owned by Tom Rost, this family business has employed five generations of Tom's family. And it has quite a legacy.
In 2011, Tom won the Preferred Funeral Directors International Parker Award for demonstrating exemplary service. And in 2016, Harris Funeral Homes, located in the Detroit area, was voted “best hometown funeral home.”
Tom and his employees seek to serve their community with compassion. That’s why its policies, which include a sex-specific dress code, are crafted to ensure that families can focus on processing their loss and grief. But now that dress code has brought Tom all the way to United States Supreme Court.
Targeted for acting consistently with existing laws
In 2013, Tom was informed that one of his employees, a male funeral director who had promised to follow the company’s sex-specific dress code, intended to dress and present as a woman.
While that employee was free to dress however that employee wanted outside of work, Harris Funeral Homes expects its funeral directors to follow the dress code during working hours. After all, the dress code is a crucial component to how it serves grieving families. But the employee made a decision to break a promise. After considering the needs of the funeral director, other employees, and the grieving families the funeral home serves, the funeral home felt it had no choice but to part ways with the employee.
That’s when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Harris Funeral Homes.
This should have been an open-and-shut case. After all, Tom and Harris Funeral Homes were acting consistently with existing laws. Small businesses are allowed under the law to have sex-specific dress codes. Even the EEOC’s own employee manual states that a “dress code may require male employees to wear neckties at all times and female employees to wear skirts at all times.”
But the EEOC elevated its political goals above the interests of the grieving families that Tom and Harris Funeral Homes serve.
To achieve these political goals, the EEOC decided that the definition of “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act should be rewritten to mean “gender identity.” But neither government agencies nor courts have the authority to rewrite federal law. That’s a blatant and unconstitutional overreach. In America, Congress makes law. It says so in our Constitution. That power does not belong to unelected bureaucrats.
Thankfully, the federal government has changed its position. It now supports Tom. But the ACLU represents the funeral director and is continuing to press the case against Harris Funeral Homes in an effort to rewrite the law.
That’s why Tom asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case and uphold his freedom. No one should be punished for acting consistently with existing laws.
Now, we have an opportunity to secure another important victory for freedom at the High Court. And the decision in this case could impact us all.
But it is only through God’s provision (John 15:5) and your faithful prayers and support that any of this is possible.
“Sex” and “gender identity” are not the same
“Sex” defines whether someone is male or female as an objective fact based on biology. But “gender identity” is a fluid, difficult-to-define concept based on subjective perceptions.
Replacing “sex” with “gender identity” in Title VII should not be taken lightly. Only Congress has the authority to make such a drastic shift. And make no mistake about it: a change like this has widespread consequences for everyone.
- It would undermine equal treatment for women like Selina Soule, a female athlete whose opportunity to compete in front of college scouts was taken by two biological males who were allowed to participate in her track events because they believe themselves to be girls.
- It would jeopardize the dignity and privacy of women like Alexis Lightcap, who was made to feel as if she were the problem when she encountered a boy inside the girls’ restroom at her high school.
- It would put employers like Tom Rost and Harris Funeral Homes in difficult situations where they would be required to treat men who believe themselves to be women as if they are in fact women.
“No court or federal agency has the authority to rewrite a federal statute. That power belongs solely to Congress.”
— ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell
These are important issues that you have the right to decide through your elected officials. Unelected officials—whether bureaucrats or judges—should not have the power to make these choices for us.
If Tom loses, he and his family-owned business will be punished. But businesses have the right to rely on what the law is—not what government agencies want it to be. And no business owner should be punished for acting consistently with existing laws.
With your support, Tom is fighting this injustice. Your prayers and financial gifts have helped provide a strong legal defense for Tom at the U.S. Supreme Court, free of charge.
But Tom isn’t only one who needs your help.
This case is the perfect example of why we must continue to stand up when our freedoms are threatened — and when those in power abuse their positions to punish people who are willing to stand for faith and freedom.
Already a group of generous Ministry Friends has provided a $2 million challenge grant to help defend people like Tom. That means your gift today will help further the impact for freedom during this critical time.
Rise to the challenge and stand for freedom
If the U.S. Supreme Court rules against Tom, it would give government agencies and unelected officials the power to change the law. And that would have consequences for every American — including you and your family.
We are hopeful that God will deliver a victory for Tom. And we’re praying that He will move in the hearts of people like you to see what is at stake and commit to the battle for freedom.
Alliance Defending Freedom needs the resources to present a strong legal defense for people like Tom. This crucial work to defend freedom can only happen through God’s provision and your support.
This is not the time for us to lay low and sit on the sidelines. We must stand together.
Thankfully, there is HOPE. When we stand firm, we can WIN!
Through God’s blessing (John 15:5) and the generous support of people like you, we’re winning nearly 80 percent of our cases, including ten victories at the U.S. Supreme Court since 2011.
You can make your tax-deductible gift right now to ensure that faith and freedom always have a strong legal defense. And when you do, your gift will further the impact of a $2 million challenge grant.
Together, and with God’s help, we can protect freedom in America. Thank you for standing with Tom and others like him with your best gift today.
About Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, nonprofit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
ADF was launched in 1994 by 35 ministry leaders, including Dr. James Dobson, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Dr. Bill Bright, and Larry Burkett.
With God’s favor and blessing, ADF has grown from the prayers of those godly leaders to become a major force in the legal battle for religious freedom, winning nearly 80% of our cases, including ten victories at the U.S. Supreme Court since 2011.