Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Biggest Church State Case In Years - U. S. Supreme Court Upholds " ministerial exception " ( Links )

Rather huge Supreme Court News in what might be of one the biggest Church State cases in decades. See Supreme Court: Discrimination laws do not protect certain employees of religious groups via the Washington Post. That case was Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC

The Hosanna case is one of the issues that had the Catholic Bishops this year in general freak out over religious liberty concerns.

In fact the Obama administration's surprising radical position on this , that there was no ministerial exception basically that was rooted in the religious parts of the First Amendment, in their brief pretty much unified a wide range of religious bodies in alarm. The fact the Adminstration seem to double down on this argument at oral arguments shocked many. Why this administration decided to take this position we will never know perhaps. However looking at the parties involved there could have been future issues of gay "rights" that was on their radar screen.

It was pretty clear at oral arguments that all the Justices were pretty skeptical of the claims being brought forth. The Majority opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts is fun if you are a history fan and well worth reading.

Prof Garnett , from Notre Dame, who was on the front lines of this issues has a very good readable piece that I recommend. See A Win for Religious Freedom. He points out:

First, they affirmed that the “ministerial exception” — which limits the government’s role in selecting religious communities’ ministers, leaders, and teachers — is required by the First Amendment. Next, they rejected a crabbed approach to that exception, which would limit its reach only to ordained clergy or to ministers who spend a majority of their time on “religious” activities. And they noted that the ministerial exception constrains the reach of government with respect to religious communities’ decisions about ministers whether or not the employment decision in question was motivated or required by theological reasons.

He also writes a bref piece at Mirrors of Justice. See Court unanimously (!) embraces the ministerial exception in Hosanna-Tabor . Also see on that web site The Historical and Particularist Quality of Hosanna-Tabor which I think brings up some interesting and important points.

Ed Whelan that has done his part in promoting how important this case was has Major Victory for Religious Liberty Against Obama Administration Attack

I expect Churches and religious organizations natiowide will be releasing statement of relief today.

1 comment:

Kurt said...

A good decision. This case started under the Bush Administration and I would say Obama did the right thing not interferring in its resolution.

It was a good case because it was tight. The law recognizes a minsterial exemption. The Lutherna Church-Missouri Synod prevailed as they should have but in the process clarified that women in these roles were considered called and ordained Ministers, somewhat to the disappointment of the conservative wing of the LC-MS (imagine the Conservative wing of LC-MS!).

Chief Justice Roberts made clear this case applied to the particulars of the situation and was not a blank check to discriminate against every janitor at a church-related school.