Author Topic: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute  (Read 3099 times)

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Offline CaseAgainstFaith

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Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« on: January 11, 2012, 05:20:46 pm »
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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.

But the court's unanimous decision in a case from Michigan did not specify the distinction between a secular employee, who can take advantage of the government's protection from discrimination and retaliation, and a religious employee, who can't.

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.

Writing the court's opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said allowing anti-discrimination lawsuits against religious organizations could end up forcing churches to take religious leaders they no longer want.

"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," Roberts said. "By imposing an unwanted minister, the state infringes the Free Exercise Clause, which protects a religious group's right to shape its own faith and mission through its appointments."

The court's decision will make it virtually impossible for ministers to take on their employers for being fired for complaining about issues like sexual harassment, said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United.

"Clergy who are fired for reasons unrelated to matters of theology — no matter how capricious or venal those reasons may be — have just had the courthouse door slammed in their faces," Lynn said.

But Douglass Laycock, who argued the case for Hosanna-Tabor, called it a "huge win for religious liberty."

"The court has unanimously confirmed the right of churches to select their own ministers and religious leaders," he said.

But since this was the first time the high court has ever considered the "ministerial exception," it would not set hard and fast rules on who can be considered a religious employee of a religious organization, Roberts said.

"We are reluctant ... to adopt a rigid formula for deciding when an employee qualifies as a minister," he said. "It is enough for us to conclude, in this, our first case involving the ministerial exception, that the exception covers Perich, given all the circumstances of her employment."

Perich was promoted from a temporary lay teacher to a "called" teacher in 2000 by a vote of the church's congregation and was hired as a commissioned minister. She taught secular classes as well as a religious class four days a week. She also occasionally led chapel service.

She got sick in 2004 but tried to return to work from disability leave despite being diagnosed with narcolepsy. The school said she couldn't return because they had hired a substitute for that year. They fired her and removed her from the church ministry after she showed up at the school and threatened to sue to get her job back.

Perich complained to the EEOC, which sued the church for violations of the disabilities act.

A federal judge threw out the lawsuit on grounds that Perich fell under the ADA's ministerial exception, which keeps the government from interfering with church affairs. But the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated her lawsuit, saying Perich's "primary function was teaching secular subjects" so the ministerial exception didn't apply.

source- http://news.yahoo.com/court-judges-cannot-involved-church-dispute-152559467.html

Umm...what....I would say this was a good thing if only the road went both ways and religion stayed out of the government.  But since that obviously doesn't happen....I think this is a bad judgement and will have a lot of negative consequences.
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Offline Osama bin Bambi

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2012, 05:57:48 pm »
I actually agree with the Supreme Court. Separation of church and state goes both ways. The government can't dictate to churches who they can and can't fire.
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Offline Yla

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2012, 06:10:04 pm »
I advise all those seeking a job in a church to establish their employ having a secular character.
That said, I've stopped trying to anticipate what people around here want a while ago, I've found it makes things smoother.
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Offline unknown

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2012, 06:20:10 pm »
The comments are full of gems, as always.  Even the ones screaming "separation of church and state isn't in the Constitution" then say even if there is, it was only meant to protect the church from the state, not the other way around, so the church should still be allowed to get involved in state affairs.  Comments like these: 

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Not really. It works one way. The people are protected from the state. The state is not supposed to have any protection from the people. Previous decisions based on this perceived protection of the state 'from religion' are wrong.

How dare government change and interpretations change to adapt!
« Last Edit: January 11, 2012, 06:25:18 pm by Iosa the Invincible »

Offline ThunderWulf

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2012, 09:59:18 pm »
Interesting.  Maybe this will (hopefully) lead to more decisions in the future enforcing a stronger seperation of church and state.  Though knowing how it is here in 'Murica, I highly doubt it and will just give churches more privilages.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2012, 11:18:40 pm by TGRwulf »
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Offline Lithp

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2012, 11:17:27 pm »
I want to see this overturned or extended to all non-government employees, because otherwise it is not protecting the legal rights of the church, it is giving them special rights.

Offline Osama bin Bambi

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2012, 11:37:29 pm »
I want to see this overturned or extended to all non-government employees, because otherwise it is not protecting the legal rights of the church, it is giving them special rights.

I like the second option.
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Offline Lithp

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2012, 11:50:04 pm »
I'd love to be denied minimum wage under the basis that I'm an atheist, blacklisted if I tried to get them for breaking the law, & have no hope of being compensated for it.

Offline Sylvana

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2012, 01:08:35 am »
I am really of two minds about this.
I can understand the ruling of the court, it makes sense especially in light of the constitution. The judiciary and state cannot get involved with religious institutions. As such they cannot make any particular ruling in this matter.
That said though, the religious organizations are operating like a business by hiring employees. Religious institutions enjoy a completely tax exempt status as well. I feel that in cases like these the case is a pretty common example of discrimination against an employee by an employer. However, because the organization is a religious institution it is suddenly exempt from judicial interference.

It makes me wonder why corporation don't become religions. After all, the holy order of wall-mart will allow it to do whatever it wants to its employees and also not have to pay tax, while continuing to operate like any other business.

I feel that while this ruling makes sense, it is not precise enough. A strong difference needs to be established between the religious and business aspects of the religious institution. Aspects such as employment are clearly business aspects and thus should fall under the banner of the judiciary, aspects of representation is the realm of the religious. As such, I feel a person can be either an employee or a representative. The institution can choose to revoke the representative status of the person, but can only fire the person on valid contractual grounds.

Offline kefkaownsall

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2012, 01:18:32 am »
I am really of two minds about this.
I can understand the ruling of the court, it makes sense especially in light of the constitution. The judiciary and state cannot get involved with religious institutions. As such they cannot make any particular ruling in this matter.
That said though, the religious organizations are operating like a business by hiring employees. Religious institutions enjoy a completely tax exempt status as well. I feel that in cases like these the case is a pretty common example of discrimination against an employee by an employer. However, because the organization is a religious institution it is suddenly exempt from judicial interference.

It makes me wonder why corporation don't become religions. After all, the holy order of wall-mart will allow it to do whatever it wants to its employees and also not have to pay tax, while continuing to operate like any other business.

I feel that while this ruling makes sense, it is not precise enough. A strong difference needs to be established between the religious and business aspects of the religious institution. Aspects such as employment are clearly business aspects and thus should fall under the banner of the judiciary, aspects of representation is the realm of the religious. As such, I feel a person can be either an employee or a representative. The institution can choose to revoke the representative status of the person, but can only fire the person on valid contractual grounds.
This
maybe limit protections to non profits

Offline Osama bin Bambi

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2012, 01:20:09 am »
It makes me wonder why corporation don't become religions.

Scientology.
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Offline erictheblue

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2012, 08:09:04 am »
I'd love to be denied minimum wage under the basis that I'm an atheist, blacklisted if I tried to get them for breaking the law, & have no hope of being compensated for it.

That isn't what the Court said (unless you plan to get a job as a minister).

Say you got hired by a Catholic school teaching history. Your duties in no way impact religious beliefs, so you would still have access to the courts.
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Offline erictheblue

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2012, 08:29:31 am »
It makes me wonder why corporation don't become religions. After all, the holy order of wall-mart will allow it to do whatever it wants to its employees and also not have to pay tax, while continuing to operate like any other business.

About 10 years ago, there was a very interesting District Court (trial court) holding that laid out a (I think) 9 point test to determine whether an organization is a religion. Although it is not binding, this is the only court to have done so, and other courts have used that test as a basis.

I don't have the cite on me at the moment. I'll look it up later and list the criteria. Overall, I think it's a pretty good, extensive test. (And most corporations would fail.)

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I feel that while this ruling makes sense, it is not precise enough. A strong difference needs to be established between the religious and business aspects of the religious institution.

In a way, there is. Ministerial exception pretty much only applies to those whose job involves teaching others about religion. (By that, I don't mean history teachers who teach a world religions class.) There are some gray areas (my Law and Religion class used the example of a teacher at a pre-school run by a Baptist church), but the lines are usually pretty clear.

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Aspects such as employment are clearly business aspects and thus should fall under the banner of the judiciary, aspects of representation is the realm of the religious.

But they aren't, as the Court explained.

Say a church has a minister named Martin Luther. Luther studied the Bible and came to the conclusion that the teachings of the church were wrong. As a man of strong beliefs and convictions, Luther published his beliefs on his blog, which was read by all members of the congregation, as well as many others.

Employers can fire a person for insubordination (with certain exceptions). Luther's actions would be no different.
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Offline Sigmaleph

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Re: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2012, 06:29:35 pm »
I want to see this overturned or extended to all non-government employees, because otherwise it is not protecting the legal rights of the church, it is giving them special rights.

I like the second option.
How is everyone (except the government) being exempted from anti-discrimination lawsuits a good idea?
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