In a case that has been hailed as one of the most important religious freedom tests in over a decade, the U.S. Supreme Court has rendered a unanimous decision that clearly states that churches have the right to determine who their employees will be and ensure that those employees share their beliefs.
The case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, involved a teacher at a Lutheran school who, for health reasons, took a leave of absence. The school had replaced her and was planning to reinstate her at the beginning of another semester. The teacher, who had received some type of ecclesiastical appointment or “ordination” prior to this event, attempted to sue the school and then was permanently fired. The basis of her firing was the fact that she had violated her commitments as a “commissioned minister” by initiating legal action.
The EEOC’s arguments were not viewed kindly by the Supreme Court as they ruled unanimously in favor of the Lutheran Church and School. There is hope that this case will roll back some of the damage done to Religious Freedom from the U.S. Supreme Court 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith.
Those of you who are attorneys at heart or love to dig deeper into the law, you can find a good analysis of this legal victory here.