Supreme Court Gives Churches Special Rights To Discriminate Against Sick Employees

Frederick Sparks explains the details of a bizarre ruling, according to which a church was allowed to invoke a ministerial exception to wrongful termination lawsuits in a case where they refused to give back a job to an employee who suffered narcolepsy and needed to take a leave of absence. One can understand, in theory, churches being able to hire and fire over religious doctrine where other employees would not be able to. But why should they be allowed to treat the sick with any less accommodation than other employers are? Read more.

The text of the ruling is here.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • danielrudolph

    I think they had to do this, otherwise, they’d be left ruling on what hiring practices were and weren’t required by the religion in question, and there’s lots of precedent keeping them away from that. If the ministerial exemption in constitutional at all, this is the consequence. Of course, now they are in the position fo deciding who’s a minister, but that isn’t as sticky.

  • rturpin

    If a religious institution can mandate celibacy or nutty belief as prerequisite for certain positions, why can’t they mandate health? It’s not hard to imagine a religion that takes illness as proof that one isn’t correctly practicing their religion. One doesn’t even have to imagine it: Scientology declares any form of mental illness curable by their religion.

  • csrster

    What they actually mandated was that the employee should accept mediation by the Church. By going to the civil courts whe was violating church rules. So your SCOTUS has now effectively enshrined sharia (and halacha, and canon law) in your constitution. Nice.

  • Corey Mondello

    “Ministerial Exception” = “Special Rights”

    • Daniel Fincke

      Not ideally. It does make sense that ministers can be hired and fired on theological grounds where other professions would not allow that.