Should ministers have any legal protections?

A reader of this blog with quite a bit of expertise on employment law and who is also sensitive to the religious issues involved  has sent me what I think is the best analysis I have seen of the Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC case currently before the Supreme Court, having to do with a Lutheran school that fired a called teacher because of her disability, then claimed a “ministerial exemption” from having to follow the disability laws because the employee was a “minister.”   Here is part of what he said, which I post with his permission (honoring also his request for anonymity):

The argument of Hosanna-Tabor that their action was based on religious reasons seems to be cooked up post-facto, and so I imagine that Ms. Perich would be able to successfully prove them pretextual–which then puts the burden of proof back upon the school to show that they are not in fact pretextual. Since their case as represented in the court documents doesn’t seem strong in this area, I think they ought to lose the case, if it is argued on those lines.

This also raises the question: Can a church or religious institution justify any action on the basis of religious motive? It seems to me Hosanna-Tabor already stepped outside the recognized limits of LCMS ecclesiology by purporting to treat a woman teacher at a Christian school as a “minister,” when, quite properly according to their theology, the priestly office is limited to men in the LCMS. The application of this category to religious school teachers only, it seems, to circumvent labor laws, strikes me as both cynical and irreligious. Can any employment action can be dragged into the category of religious conviction when the stated institutional convictions of the supervising denomination are clearly at odds with it? This is the elephant in the room which the EEOC has been mighty delicate not to take a shot at.

I worry that the outcome of this case, whether Hosanna-Tabor wins or loses, will be to confuse 1st Amendment jurisprudence and set bad precedents in one direction or another.

Exactly.  However the course rules, harmful precedents are going to be set.   This raises another question:  Do ministers have any legal protections?  If the ruling goes in favor of the school, that would seem to mean that churches and other religious organizations could mistreat their pastors and probably other employees with impunity, claiming a “ministerial exception” that makes them exempt from honoring the legal rights that other citizens have.

I know the New Testament prohibitions about going to court to solve church disputes–it’s much better to be defrauded–but it’s possible for a church to obey the law in regards to its ministers without anyone going to court.  The Reformation battled the notion that the church needs only follow canon law and not the laws of the state, addressing the situation  that priests and nuns were subject only to canon law, even when they committed overt crimes.  The doctrine of vocation taught that the laws of the state also were instruments of God’s social order, and that the church didn’t have the right to impose a competing legal system of its own.

We have the rights of the church vs. the rights of the pastors.  (Since the plaintiff here is a teacher, perhaps many pastors haven’t been seeing  how the case would also apply to them.)  Or should pastors claim no legal rights other than those of the church?

How Christians are identified in Egypt

The Arab Spring in Egypt is resulting in riots and persecution targeting Coptic Christians, who make up some 10% of the population. This weekend some 17 were killed.  See  this.

So how can Egyptians tell if one of their countrymen is a Christian?  Well, in an act of defiance and self-identity and so everyone will know their religion, the Copts wear their faith on their sleeve, as it were.  They tattoo a Coptic Cross on their wrists.  (We blogged about this before, but I found a picture.)

Coptic tattoo

 

 

The Black Rubric

I’ve been studying Anglicanism lately.  But then I’ve run up against the Black Rubric, so-called because it was printed in bold type in the Book of Common Prayer.  It enjoins kneeling while receiving the Sacrament, but goes on to deny explicitly any kind of real, bodily presence of Christ in the elements:

“Whereas it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved: It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine there bodily received, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.”

via Black Rubric – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Now I know that many Anglicans do believe in the Real Presence, with some sounding almost Lutheran in their affirmations.  Indeed, some are Anglo-Catholics with a very high view of the sacraments.  I’m curious how those folks handle the Black Rubric.

According to the article, this has come in and out of various editions of the Book of Common Prayer.  (Puritans insisted on it and would go up in arms when it was omitted.)  It isn’t in the 2000 edition used in America today, though it remains in the British prayer book.  It is apparently in the 1926 Book of Common Prayer, the one favored by many conservatives and Anglo-Catholics today.

I realize that this is what I read in a Reformed Episcopal service I once attended, with my hosts seemingly a little hurt that I, as a Lutheran, would not commune with them.  But the liturgy explicitly repudiated my beliefs about the Sacrament as idolatry!  This may also explain to Anglicans who are hurt by the confessional Lutheran practice of closed communion why Lutheran pastors can not assume that Anglicans have the same view of the Christ’s presence in His Supper that they do. And why Lutheran theologians tend to categorize Anglicans as another variety of Calvinists.  Indeed, the Black Rubric seems to be a textbook definition of Calvinist sacramental theology (what with the statement that Christ’s body is in Heaven, “and not here”), which is why the Puritans made such a point of it.

And yet I’m sure this isn’t the whole story.  Someone help me out with this.

HT:  Adam

Different takes on the LCMS school case

Here are two different framings of the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC case that was just heard before the Supreme Court.  The first shows why so many religious groups are backing the LCMS school:
Washington Wants a Say Over Your Minister–Wall Street Journal

The second is slanted towards the rights of the disabled:

Supreme Court Weighs Rights Of Parochial-School Teachers : NPR.

Then there are many confessional Lutherans who disapprove of teachers being conflated with pastors and so oppose the congregation’s claim for a “ministerial exception.”

I suspect there are also LCMS teachers and others who support the notion of the teacher’s “call” and yet sympathize with her for being discriminated against because of her disability.

How do you think the court should rule, and how do you think it will rule?  What measures should the church body take to address these issues?

Execution of Iranian pastor on hold, for now

Iranian officials say that the execution of the Iranian pastor who has refused to recant his faith in Christ is not imminent.  But now that they are accusing him of other heinous crimes–ones never mentioned in his actual trial and that are not even consistent from spokesman to spokesman–makes me think that his life is still in serious jeopardy:

It appears that Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani will avoid the hangman in Iran for the time being.

Nadarkhani, once the leader of a 400-person congregation in Rasht, was previously convicted of apostasy — the crime of abandoning Islam and converting to Christianity — but Iran now claims that the death penalty reports that circulated around the world last week were unsubstantiated.

“Youssef Nadar-Khani [sic] has been charged with a crime and is in a prison based on an arrest warrant issued against him,” Gilan Province Judiciary Chief Mohammad-Javad Heshmati said on Wednesday, according to Iran state news agency Press TV.

“There has been no execution order. No conviction at all has been issued yet and it is up to the court to finally decide the verdict after studying his case,” he added.

Since news of Nadarkhani’s looming execution spread, Iran has been loudly decrying the pastor as “a convicted rapist and extortionist,” and the Fars News Agency said over the weekend that Nadarkhani was to be executed for Zionism and threats to national security.

via Youcef Nadarkhani Update: Iranian Pastor Safe From Execution, For Now – International Business Times.

Mariology

The recent post on “The Pope on Luther” led to a discussion of Luther’s views of Mary, in which noted Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong weighed in.  (I am continually amazed at who all reads this blog.)  He cited evidence that Luther had a relatively “Catholic” view of Mary  early in his career, though after the Diet of Worms, in 1521.  (The source of that evidence was somewhat confused, though, which the discussion helped to sort out.)

One of the issues was the “immaculate conception,”  the Roman Catholic teaching that by a direct miracle of God the Virgin Mary was born without original sin.  This is an interesting example of the Roman Catholic theological method, as distinct from how virtually all Protestants “do” theology.  The teaching is not arbitrary dogma, or the exaltation of tradition, or an extension of Mary-worship, or “popish superstition.”  Rather, it is a logical conclusion based on reason, as practiced by scholastic theology.

The chain of reasoning goes like this:  In order to redeem the world, Jesus Christ had to be without sin.  He certainly lived a sinless life.  But he also needed to be without original sin as inherited from Adam.  Jesus took His human nature from being born of the Virgin Mary, not having a human father.  Somehow, though, He could not have inherited Adam’s fallen nature, with its inherent sinfulness, its genetic (we would say) disposition to sin,  the accompanying curses of the Fall.  Therefore, the mother of Jesus must not bear that fallen nature.   She was conceived in the normal manner–not as another virgin birth, with which the doctrine is often confused–but, through a miracle, “immaculately.”

That Mary did not have original sin means that she also did not suffer under the curse of the Fall.  This explains the tradition that she did not feel the pains of labor.  It also explains the bookend Catholic dogma the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.  If she did not have original sin, she could not die, so must have been taken up bodily into Heaven.

These notions sound strange to Protestant ears, but they grow out of the Roman Catholic approach to theology, which supports and extends revealed truth with flying buttresses of reason.

Now one might believe these things of Mary without  seeing her as a mediatrix between human beings and Christ, without praying to her, and without seeing her as a co-redemptrix.  One could believe Mary was free of original sin and that she was received bodily into Heaven while still being evangelical, as Luther evidently did in 1521.

But the Protestant theological method, which derived from Luther, uses not reason as the primary authority but the Word of God, which is held to be the only authority in theological issues.  The Bible does not mention any of this about Mary, which is presumably would, if, as Rome claims, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are fundamental and necessary dogmas of the Christian faith.  Indeed, in the Magnificat, Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55, the Mother of our Lord praises God as her “savior,” which implies that she too is in need of salvation.  And she certainly suffered, which Eve in her pre-fallen state did not, as Simeon prophesied to her:  “And a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:35).

Further, we could argue that Christ’s incarnation and His redemptive work requires that He take upon Himself our fallen nature.  He never sinned even though He shared our fallen flesh.  Thus he became the Second Adam who freed us from the curse.  (I know talking about the two natures of Christ can easily get heretical.  Someone correct me if I’m wrong, and if I am, I recant.)


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