First Amendment trumps Equal Opportunity Employment

Today, the Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC  issued a unanimous ruling on the First Amendment.  While this blog regularly celebrates the Freedom of Speech clause, the decision focuses primarily on the Free Exercise Clause and, to a lesser extent, the Establishment Clause.

In a nutshell:

  1. Church had 2 types of teacher–lay and ministerial.
  2. Ministerial teacher develops disability and takes leave of absense; replaced by lay teacher.
  3. Church rules normally prioritize ministerial teachers, but when this teacher tries to get her job back, she is denied.
  4. She becomes insubordinate and complains of an ADA violation.
  5. She is terminated.
  6. Teacher sues the church for retaliation against her for making an ADA claim.
  7. Supreme Court says church wins.

Assuming there was blatant retaliation, the church still wins.  Why?  Because if the government were to tell a church they couldn’t fire a particular minister, that would prevent a church from freely deciding who gets to spread the gospel and who doesn’t.  To its extreme, though excepted specifically in Title VII, if the government had the power to dictate who a church could fire, it could prevent the Pope from defrocking an American Bishop who pronounces the Shahada and converts to Islam.  Basically, the 1st Amendment lets a religion freely decide who gets to be a minister, even if the reasons for hiring or firing are otherwise abhorrent to society.  If you don’t like it, you are free to change religions.  Or declare the person who did the firing a heretic and stone them.  Either way.

9 Responses to First Amendment trumps Equal Opportunity Employment

  1. Sanket says:

    This is really good to know stuff.This will surely raise employment and will help economy to balance up to certain extent.

    • Jay Wolman says:

      From a pure economics perspective, it is Pareto superior. Plus, it may have a precedential effect for other religious based organizational economic decisions. So, thank you for your sarcasm.

  2. Mark Kernes says:

    And once again, religious dogma trumps common sense and fair play. Remember, they didn’t fire this woman because she screwed up the religious teachings; they fired her because she had narcolepsy, got treated for it, and mouthed off when they told her she couldn’t return to her former job. In a civilized society, that’s a perfect discrimination case.

    • anon says:

      “According to the Church, Perichwas a minister, and she had been fired for a religious reason—namely, that her threat to sue the Church violated the Synod’s belief that Christians should resolve their disputes internally.”

  3. MikeZ says:

    And to add insult to injury the teacher now won’t get to collect unemployment benefits. Since Churches are exempted from contributing to unemployment Insurance.

  4. Burt Likko says:

    You know this is being turned into a talking point about Obama’s war on religion, right?

    (I didn’t say that it made any sense.)

  5. jdgalt says:

    Your argument seems insufficient to support its conclusion. The church did not have to fire the plaintiff as a teacher in order to prevent her views from being seen as the church’s own religious doctrine — revoking her credential as a minister would have been enough to accomplish that.

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