The Supreme Court on Wednesday delivered a long-awaited religious liberty decision on the right of religious schools to hire and fire teachers. The court found in favor of two Catholic schools in California, ruling that a “ministerial exception” to government interference applies to teachers in religious schools.
The ruling came in the consolidated cases of Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James Catholic School v. Biel. The justices ruled in a 7-2 decision that teachers at Catholic grade schools qualified for the “ministers exception” established by the court in the 2012 Hosana Tabor case.
“The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito for the majority.
“Judicial review of the way in which religious schools discharge those responsibilities would undermine the independence of religious institutions in a way that the First Amendment does not tolerate.”
Full story at Catholic News Agency.
Victory for Little Sisters of the Poor
The Supreme Court on Wednesday voted 7–2 to allow employers with sincerely held moral or religious objections an exemption from an Obama-era mandate to provide contraception in their health-care plans.
The decision upholds President Trump’s 2017 executive order exempting the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order of nuns that runs homes for the elderly poor, and other religious groups, from “undue interference from the federal government.” New Jersey and Pennsylvania state governments had sued President Trump, saying the order was an executive overreach.
Pennsylvania chief deputy attorney general Michael Fischer argued in May that the Trump administration’s order and a 2018 Department of Health and Human Services exemption were “too broad” — and would result in women losing coverage of services that the 2010 Affordable Care Act and a subsequent rule had deemed essential.
But Justice Clarence Thomas, in the opinion of the Court, wrote that the Trump administration “had the authority to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and conscientious objections.”
“The only question we face today is what the plain language of the statute authorizes,” Thomas wrote. “And the plain language of the statute clearly allows the Departments to create the preventive care standards as well as the religious and moral exemptions.”
The ruling comes nearly ten years into a legal battle over whether the Little Sisters of the Poor were required to include contraceptives in its health-care plans, though in a concurrence Justice Samuel Alito said that the court’s decision was not likely to be the end of the matter.
Full story at National Review.
It’s about time. Churches should be able to manage their schools and other organizations based on their belief system, even if it is contrary to popular cultural norms. A group of nuns should not be required to provide what is against their basic beliefs. Teachers in religious schools should, as a minimum, believe in and behave in a way consistent with the beliefs of that religion.