As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a church school cannot be sued in court over an employee’s discrimination complaint.
In a unanimous decision SCOTUS overturned the earlier ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al which had allowed the lawsuit to move forward, saying the teacher’s work was more secular than religious.
The high court disagreed.
Consistent with precedent, SCOTUS ruled that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion shields churches and their operations from the reach of anti-discrimination laws when dealing with employees of religious institutions. SCOTUS also extended this precedent to include complaints of discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Writing for the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts noted:
The purpose of the exception is not to safeguard a church’s decision to fire a minister only when it is made for a religious reason. The exception instead ensures that the authority to select and control who will minister to the faithful is the church’s alone….(c) Today the Court holds only that the ministerial exception barsan employment discrimination suit brought on behalf of a minister, challenging her church’s decision to fire her. The Court expresses no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits.
The Court’s decision is a clear defeat for those in the U.S. Catholic Church advocating women’s ordination. While the Catholic Church discriminates in favor of males for theological reasons, civil suits based upon gender discrimination cannot be brought. “[The] authority to select and control who will minister to the faithful is the church’s alone” [italics added].
To read the SCOTUS decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al, click on the following link: