The Supreme Court on Wednesday (Oct. 5.) will hear one of most important religion cases in decades, centered on the degree to which religious institutions should be exempt from anti-discrimination laws.
The case started at a Lutheran elementary school in Michigan where a teacher claimed she was fired in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The question before the justices concerns the “ministerial exception,” a 40-year-old legal doctrine that protects churches and other religious institutions from government interference in their employment decisions.
Few would dispute that a religious congregation should be unfettered when it chooses to hire or fire clergy. But what about other church employees?
“Advocates for the ministerial exception argue that religious institutions, in their hiring and firing, should be regulated as little as possible,” said Ira C. Lupu, a professor at The George Washington University School of Law who specializes in church-state cases.
“On the other side are those concerned that a particular group is cast outside the various protections of civil rights laws.”
Cheryl Perich taught secular subjects and religion at Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran School in Redford, Mich., and signed a contract as a “called teacher,” charged with advancing the religious doctrines of the congregation that operated the school.
Her dispute with the school, which is now closed, began after she fell ill in 2004, and took several months off to treat a chronic sleep disorder. The congregation hired another teacher to take her place, and asked Perich to resign. Perich, who had permission from her doctor to return to work, threatened to sue and the congregation then voted to fire her.
Source: Washington Post | Lauren Markoe