Quote of the day

“The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important.  But so too is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith and carry out their mission.”

– Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts

He was writing about a unanimous court ruling today on religious freedom.

Read more.


  1. naturgesetz says:

    I read the decision, which is linked at Elizabet Scalia’s blog.

    The best part of this is that the Court was unanimous. The next best part was that Justice Kagan joined Justice Alito in an opinion that said the Court should have gone even further.

    This doesn’t say anything about church-run charities, but it’s very good as far as it goes.

  2. It’s quite good. And very important, especially when one considers what things would have looked like had the Court ruled the other way. Thank God we don’t have to start thinking those scenarios through, now.

  3. Right on. A very important decision. Fantastic, this is. And naturgesetz is right: unanimous! That should say something.

  4. ron chandonia says:

    Some of the joy over this assumes, I think, that the religious organization is likely to have more godly motives than a disgruntled employee. But even in this particular case, I see that the employee who was discharged was primarily a teacher of secular subjects and was dismissed when she returned from a leave with the expectation that her position would be awaiting her return. I can’t help but wonder if the church took advantage of her clerical state to do what they could not have done if she had not been ordained and/or also served as an instructor of religion.

    Would a Catholic organization take similar advantage? One of the touchiest subjects in my diaconate formation classes is justice in the workplace. Many of the candidates and/or their wives are or have been employees of the archdiocese. Invariably they point out that the rights the Church supports for workers generally do not seem to apply to themselves or their co-workers. I personally know of one instance of peremptory dismissal that still leaves me dismayed. And I wonder if this new decision will not leave workers in Catholic institutions who are treated unfairly without legal recourse against high-handed supervisors.

  5. naturgesetz says:

    The thing is that she was, in the eyes of the church, an ordained minister, who violated church doctrine and discipline. The Court said that the secular law can’t intrude on a church’s right to decide who is suitable for ministry.

  6. Fantastic!!!

    This ought to open the eyes of all those who come here to argue that the Obama administration is not anti religious. Open your eyes people. Even the Liberals on the Supreme Court over turned this administration’s anti religious zealotry.

    This is the most anti religious administration in the history of our country. If you value religion, then this administration needs to go.

  7. Coming from the Lutheran world myself, I can see precisely where this LCMS church was coming from. I attended parochial school at a Lutheran church affiliated with a synod that was equally as conservative as the LCMS. That school didn’t take a dime from the state–not for books, or school lunches (church moms/dads took turns both paying and cooking hot lunch), not for transportation. Nothin’. Entirely self-sufficient.

    But the beauty of this frugal state of affairs (among many) was not having to answer to the state’s rules regarding anything. ‘We don’t take your money, so you can’t tell us how to run our affairs,’ was the basic sentiment. That’s why this SCOTUS decision was so important. If a church can’t run its own affairs even when it is entirely free from the state and federal teet, well, then you have huge problems. Nice to see that SCOTUS has argued so marvelously in this case.

  8. Her violation of church doctrine was filing a federal lawsuit. That is a novel interpretation of church doctrine.

  9. Ron Chandonia:
    According to the supreme court document, the teacher was designated as a “called” teacher. The Lutheran Synod classifies its schoolteachers into two categories: “called” and “lay.” “Called” teachers are considered to have been called to their vocation by God and must complete certain academic requirements in theology. They then receive the formal title “Minister of Religion, Commissioned.”

    The teacher completed the required training, accepted the call and, in addition to teaching secular subjects, she taught a religion class, led her students in daily prayer and devotional exercises, and took her students to a weekly school-wide chapel service. She led the chapel service herself about twice a year.

    At the beginning of 2004-2005 school year the teacher developed narcolepsy and went on disability leave. After having received treatment, she asked to return in January 2005. The principal responded that there were concerns about her readiness to return to the classroom. (I would share their concern. A person with narcolepsy even if medicated, would be a danger teaching young children.) The congregation subsequently offered to pay a portion of her health insurance premiums in exchange for her resignation as a “called” teacher. She refused to resign and contacted an attorney. The congregation terminated her for “insubordination and disruptive behavior.”

    Before all of us Catholics raise a toast to this Supreme Court decision, this Lutheran church is a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which holds that the papacy is the Antichrist.

    Also, I am coming to think that we Catholics are becoming more defensive about separation of Church and state and fearful of interference by the judiciary, because our leadership has been so negligent about the clergy abuse scandal.

  10. The EEOC was arguing to enforce anti discrimination laws in employment. The Court held Churches can choose who to employ as ministers even if in doing so they discriminate. The EEOC was not seeking to destroy religion – it was trying to push the envelope in anti discrimination laws to protect employees. The Court unanimously disagreed. So how does this make the Obama administration anti religion when two of his appointees joined in the decision supporting this exception to civil anti discrimination laws?

  11. naturgesetz says:

    Not that novel. The church takes 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 seriously. The Court, of course, can’t say whether or not it is valid. It can only accept what the church itself says its doctrine is.

    IIRC, under the 1917 Code of Canon Law anybody who sued his bishop in a civil court incurred an automatic excommunication.

  12. naturgesetz says:

    Barbara, did you read this excerpt over on Elizabeth Scalia’s blog?

    “President Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claimed during oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court last week that it can order a church to restore a fired minister to a teaching position.

    But that was a claim not even the president’s handpicked appointee, the very liberal Justice Elena Kagan, could accept as she and her colleagues considered Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC. [...] The justices then rejected the argument of Leondra Kruger, Obama’s lawyer for the EEOC, who argued that there’s no ministerial exception in the Constitution, only the same rights that secular organizations possess to choose their own affiliations.

    At this, [Justice Antonin] Scalia exploded. ‘That’s extraordinary! There, black on white in the text of the Constitution, are special protections for religion. And you say it makes no difference?’”

    In arguing that there is no ministerial exemption, Obama’s EEOC was going against the holding of every federal appeals court that had considered the question for decades. The fact that the Obama apppointees rejected the Obama administration’s position does not diminish the fact that it was the Obama administration’s position.

    Being anti religion, which is what Manny said Obama is, may not be precisely the same as trying to destroy religion, which is what you said Obama isn’t. But it’s hard to see how an administration which goes to court to overturn a long-standing protection for the freedom of churches to follow their own doctrines can possibly be considered friendly to organized religion.

  13. I suppose, if we can say that the Obama Administration is anti-religion, then we could just as easily say that the Supreme Court Justices are prejudiced against people with disabilities.

  14. naturegesetz, there is nothing that will ever convince Barabara P of this administration’s anti religious stances.

  15. the equal employment opportunity commission was doing what the agency is charged with doing. it viewed the situation as an employment case and applied civil laws. the court, for the first time, recognized a ministerial exception to the civil discrimination laws. i don’t see an anti religion motive here, i see an anti discrimination motive. the court made the unanimous decision that many thought it would make that a church can choose its own ministers even if the conduct would be a violation of civil laws. the court left open how far that exception goes . as far as oral argument goes, sometimes at oral argument things get said quickly and it is difficult to frame a careful and full answer. i wasnt at oral argument and have not read the full transcript so i cannot speak to your quote. but i have been at appellate court oral arguments and i can tell you they are pressure filled situations and things don’t always come out the right way. but even from the quote you provided it seems the eeoc was arguing that churches should not be allowed to discriminate in employment decisions. the court unanimously disagreed. so where is your proof of anti-religion animus?

  16. one more thing, churches are not always free to follow their own doctrines. for example, polygamy is prohibited even if a sincerely held religious belief. the issue is where does our constitution draw the line?

  17. Good start to a long journey. Correcting 60 plus years of judicial activism and invention will take a lot more work and we need to insure that those making these corrections are judges who will go by what the constitution says and not want they want to legislate. This means getting rid of Obama. His end run here to try to attack religion is but one of many by this administration.

  18. It was good to see this as a 9-0 – a strong reminder that at it’s best the SCOTUS is not a party caucus.
    These are the types of cases — where conflicting rights are in play that the court can send a powerful message. In this case, the right of a religion to select it’s own ministers is so important that the state can not enforce employment rules that have been upheld in other workplaces.

    Also a good reminder with all of the talk about vouchers etc for catholic schools– be very careful– when the state funds stuff the state has influence. People think that the fact that the voucher goes to the parent means this can’t happen — but the government has the right to dictate rules for those who accept such vouchers they fund.
    Remember the Golden Rule – - he who supplies the gold, – gets to set the rules.

  19. this was judicial activism

  20. do you support polygamy if it is a sincerely held religious belief? what about human sacrifice. this is where your strict construction arguments fail. the constitution is a living document that needs to be interpreted and reinterpreted otherwise it will die.

  21. If it’s a living document , it’s meaningless. When it’s interpreted in a “living way” then all you get is nine people who decide the laws of our lives. Actually, just five. You will have destroyed domocracy, just as they have destroyed 54 million unborn children by an incredible leap of “living” logic.

  22. naturgesetz says:

    Barbara P, “the court, for the first time, recognized a ministerial exception to the civil discrimination laws.”

    The Supreme Court was not inventing the ministerial exception. It was recognized in numerous circuit court cases which they cite in the opinions. I think it is fair to say that it was generally accepted. So in effect, the Obama’s EEOC was trying to get the whole line of appellate decisions recognizing the exemption overturned. They did not have to do that. They could have decided that the exemption applied in this case. Or they could have argued that it did not apply in this case, which is what the 6th Circuit said. It was going beyond the 6th Circuit’s holding and making the unnecessary attempt to write the whole well-established recognition of a ministerial exemption out of the law that shows their anti-religion animus.

  23. no it needs to be interpreted and applicable to a developing society. the issues that arise today were not even thought of when it was written, e.g., the internet.

  24. I don’t want to keep going on a tit-for-tat but the Constitution is basically divided into two parts: (1) principles (outline freedoms) and (2) process (division of government and terms). Neither are affected by changing circumstances unless you don’t feel a freedom is applicable any longer. Everything else is in the pervue of legislation. So when the internet is invented and chages our life, legislation needs to be passed to establish rules that make for a functioning society. In any event there is a process for changing the constitution. It’s called ammendments. The reason you Liberals push for a “living” constitution is because you fail to pass legislation (i.e. the country doesn’t accept your view) or you can’t must a constitutional ammendment. In some respect this cuts both ways. We Conservatives would love to pass all sorts of constitutional ammendments: balanced budget, pro-life, open prayer in school. I wish the Conservative justices were less conservative and played the Liberal “living” document nonsense game and created out of whole cloth those laws. Unfortunately we respect the Constitution.

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