Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Friday, March 16, 2012

Court Tells EEOC to Back Off of Churches

Surprise, surprise, the Supreme Court handed down a decision slapping down the bureaucrats who are trying to tie strings around Christian churches. Here's what happened. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, known as EEOC, had sued a small grade school affiliated with the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, and the school fought back. This Christian school had conferred the title of "Minister of Religion" on many of its teachers. One of those teachers got into a dispute over her employment and threatened to sue the school, so the school fired her. She then filed a complaint with the EEOC, asserting that she was improperly fired for planning to sue the school under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC then sued the school, claiming that the school had fired the teacher in retaliation for her threat to file a lawsuit. As the case got more complicated, the demands against the school got more expensive, including demands that the teacher be rehired or given future pay, and also get back pay, punitive damages, and attorney's fees.

This case got to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which held against the school. Then the case moved to the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously held against the EEOC and against the teacher. The Supreme Court stated that churches and church organizations enjoy a virtually absolute right to fire individuals under the so-called "ministerial exception" to employment laws, and religious employers are protected under the First Amendment from being second-guessed by judges for their employment decisions about "who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission."

And here's another surprise. This Supreme Court decision, written by Chief Justice Roberts, was unanimous.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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