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Supreme Court Saves Religious Liberty from Obama


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Center for Individual Freedom :

Quin Hillyer
January 12 2012

In a devastating smackdown of the Obama administration’s extremist, anti-religious legal philosophy, a unanimous – repeat, unanimous – Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled anew that government usually may not interfere with a religious institution’s hiring and firing practices. The victory for First Amendment religious freedom is immense, and the embarrassment for the administration is supreme.

The case, styled Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, involved a Michigan church-school’s decision to terminate employment of a schoolteacher explicitly and openly hired as a “minister of religion, commissioned” – a position that included duties teaching a religion class four days a week. Courts for at least four decades have recognized what is known as a “ministerial exception” to most employment lawsuits. Without the exception, for instance, the government might force the Catholic Church to hire women as priests, regardless of church doctrine on the subject, in order to abide by anti-discrimination laws. The exception is an essential protection against government entanglement with free religious exercise.

Cheryl Perich, the teacher in Hosanna-Tabor, sued, alleging that her job should have been protected because of a disability (narcolepsy). The Obama administration, through the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, joined the suit on her behalf. It did not, however, merely argue that the ministerial exception, for various reasons, should not apply in her case. Instead, it took what the Supreme Court Wednesday called the “untenable” and “remarkable view that the Religion Clauses have nothing to say about a religious organization’s freedom to select its own ministers,” and that earlier case law somehow “precludes recognition of a ministerial exception.”

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