Missouri Department of Corrections v. Finney

October 6, 2023

Summary of facts: An employee of the Missouri Department of Corrections sued the department alleging that she was discriminated against because of her same-sex sexual relationship. The employee’s attorney asked prospective jurors whether they held “conservative Christian” beliefs. When some said yes, the attorney asked the court to strike them, arguing, “I don’t think that you can ever rehabilitate yourself, no matter what you turn around and say after that.” The court struck the jurors for their religious beliefs “to err on the side of caution.” On appeal, the state court of appeals held that jurors may be struck based on their religious views.

RFI position: The decision of the Missouri Court of Appeals poses a particular threat to the religious liberty of adherents of minority religious traditions, like Judaism and Islam. It would allow courts to strike jurors for cause based solely on their religious beliefs or status, even where the court determines (as the trial court did here) that a prospective juror is able to remain neutral and unbiased in carrying out the duties of a juror. While that holding and its endorsement of religious discrimination poses a threat to people of all faiths, it promises to fall more heavily on observers of minority religious traditions. If religious belief or status alone can support striking a prospective juror for cause, then both Jews and Muslims will be effectively rendered ineligible for jury service. 

Read the amicus brief here.