Thursday, January 12, 2012

Supremes Teach Obama Religious Liberty; Church Wins

President Obama's employment agency wanted to make hiring and firing decisions for a Lutheran church, but the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared the White House constitutional law expertise to be lacking.
“Requiring a church to accept or retain an unwanted minister, or punishing a church for failing to do so, intrudes upon more than a mere employment decision. Such action interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs. By imposing an unwanted minister, the state infringes the free exercise clause [of the U.S. Constitution] . . .”
-- U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts
For background, read Hiring Only Christians for Missions Organization is OK, says Supreme Court

-- From "Court: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute" by Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press 1/11/12

In a groundbreaking case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held for the first time that religious employees of a church cannot sue for employment discrimination.

It was, nevertheless, the first time the high court has acknowledged the existence of a "ministerial exception" to anti-discrimination laws -- a doctrine developed in lower court rulings. This doctrine says the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion shields churches and their operations from the reach of such protective laws when the issue involves employees of these institutions.

The case came before the court because the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Redford, Mich., on behalf of employee Cheryl Perich, over her firing, which happened after she complained of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Religious Groups Given ‘Exception’ to Work Bias Law" by Adam Liptak, New York Times 1/11/12

“The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in a decision that was surprising in both its sweep and its unanimity. “But so, too, is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith and carry out their mission.”

The decision gave only limited guidance about how courts should decide who counts as a minister, saying the court was “reluctant to adopt a rigid formula.” Two concurring opinions offered contrasting proposals.

Whatever its precise scope, the ruling will have concrete consequences for countless people employed by religious groups to perform religious work. In addition to ministers, priests, rabbis and other religious leaders, the decision appears to encompass, for instance, at least those teachers in religious schools with formal religious training who are charged with instructing students about religious matters.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Supreme Court Backs Church in Landmark Religious Liberty Case" by Ariane de Vogue, ABC News 1/11/12

The case stemmed from the firing of Cheryl Perich, a Michigan teacher who had been employed by a school run by the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church [Missouri Synod].

Perich had completed training to become a commissioned minister at the school. In 2004 she became ill with narcolepsy and went on disability. School officials expressed concern that Perich would not be able to return to the school for several months. The congregation voted to pay a portion of her health insurance premiums in exchange for her resignation. Perich refused to step down and returned to work, only to be told she must leave and that she would likely be fired.

Perich told the school that she had consulted a lawyer and intended to assert her legal rights. She contacted the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed suit arguing Perich’s termination was in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said that the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment –”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”–bar the government from interfering with the decision of a religious group to fire one of its ministers.

Roberts gave a history lesson in his opinion . . .

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Supreme Court delivers a knockout punch to the White House" by Peter Johnson Jr., 1/11/12

Citing well-known legal precedent dating as far back as Reconstruction, the court made it clear that it is not up to the government to contradict a faith’s determination as to who should -- and should not -- be performing religious functions.

As the new year rolls on, Americans face even greater issues in their desire to retain their religious freedom. The mandates of ObamaCare -- with its narrowly tailored if not measly conscience exemptions protecting some religious orders from compliance -- will mandate thousands of other religious organizations ranging from educational institutions to insurance companies to insure and/or provide procedures like free sterilization and abortifacients like Plan B known to be violative of many Christians and Jewish faiths.

To read the entire opinion column above, CLICK HERE.