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Supreme Court Tells Ninth Circuit to Stay Out of Personnel Decisions of Religious Organizations


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A little earlier today I posted about the Supreme Court ruling that the Catholic religious order, the Little Sisters of the Poor, did not have to provide contraceptive coverage. There was a second win for religious liberty today, also 7-2, for the ability of religious schools to hire and fire staff free from secular oversight.

Eight years ago, in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that teachers at religious schools had no recourse to litigation if they were fired if they performed religious duties such as instructing students in religion, etc., even though that was not a primary function of their job.


One would have thought that would be the last word on the issue. Obviously you can’t have government interference in personnel decisions inside of religious organizations without interjecting secular government deeply into the operations of those organizations. Even if one agrees that some injustices will occur, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how much mischief would be possible were persons with a religious role within a religious organization able to litigate employment issue.


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Supreme Court ensures religious schools can be religious

Nicole Russell

July 09, 2020

The Supreme Court released two incredible opinions on Wednesday in favor of religious liberty, one of which offers tremendous protections for parochial schools.


In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, the court ruled 7-2 in favor of two California Catholic schools, saying the government can’t intervene when a religious school makes administrative hiring or firing decisions. Although the case didn’t get much media fanfare, the ruling ensures that religious schools can make their own decisions and are protected under the ministerial exception. The case, litigated by religious liberty law firm Becket, is tremendous for students, parents, and the administrations of faith-based schools who can better prioritize religious instruction without the threat of government intrusion.

The lawsuit involved two Catholic school teachers whose employers found their performances inadequate. Their employment contracts were not renewed. The teachers sued, claiming employment discrimination, and lower courts agreed.

The high court, however, ruled that faith-based schools are protected under a ministerial exception and that the schools' decisions were protected on those grounds and on First Amendment grounds.


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