High court hears church-state appeal over 'ministerial' employee
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on a controversial case on hiring and firing of "ministerial employees."
October 5th, 2011
03:43 PM ET

High court hears church-state appeal over 'ministerial' employee

By Bill Mears, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Few issues divide the Supreme Court - and the country at large - more than church-state matters, and arguments before the Supreme Court on Wednesday involving a workplace discrimination lawsuit against a Lutheran church proved especially touchy.

At issue is whether the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to hiring and firing decisions involving "ministerial employees" like teachers who may have primarily secular job duties.

The justices appeared at odds over whether this is substantive discrimination or simple retaliation against a Michigan teacher, after she complained to government authorities over her treatment on the job.

"You're asking for an exemption (to lawsuits) so these issues can't even be tried" in a government hearing on the merits, said Justice Anthony Kennedy. "She was fired simply for asking for a hearing."

"It's none of the business of the government to decide what the substantial interest of the church is," countered Justice Antonin Scalia. "There, in black and white in the text of the Constitution, are special protections for religion."

Read the full story here.
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Courts • Lutheran

soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Sleep disorder symptom checker

    Heartburn or acid reflux, sleep apnea along with a pounding heart are significant conditions that individuals have to provide for ; or else, conditions are more serious could cause ...Narcolepsy

    January 29, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  2. JohnQuest

    I'm not certain what Justice Scalia meant by "It's none of the business of the government to decide what the substantial interest of the church is,". Where in our consti-tution did he read (or interpret) that?

    It appears, that firing someone for requesting a hearing falls outside of "substantial interest of the church" especially if the Chruch pays Payroll taxes and the like.

    October 7, 2011 at 11:04 am |


    October 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Bippy, the Lesser Squirrel-God of Spammy AM Radio Golden Moldies from the Seventies

      I am one of the minor squirrel-divinities. You owe me your acorn, and a nice bit of sandwich crust if you don't mind. You owe your sad existence to being born into the money-obsessed bourgeois capitalist money trap you humans made for yourselves and now cannot escape. Had you embraced the Thoreauian anarchism we squirrels perfected, you would have been much happier. We are superior – Nietzsche based his super man theories on the profound work "überEichhörnchen" by Wolfgang Rodentstein, leading squirrel philosopher.

      We have our own theme song, which one of you lousy humans plagiarized from us:

      I am squirrel, hear me roar
      In numbers too big to ignore
      And I know too much to go back an' pretend
      'Cause I've heard it all before
      And I've been down there on the floor
      No one's ever gonna keep me down again

      Oh yes, I am wise
      But it's wisdom born of pain
      Yes, I've paid the price
      But look how much I gained
      If I have to
      I can do anything
      I am strong (strong)
      I am invincible (invincible)
      I am squirrel

      You can bend but never break me
      'Cause it only serves to make me
      More determined to achieve my final goal
      And I come back even stronger
      Not a novice any longer
      'Cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul

      Oh, yes, I am wise
      But it's wisdom born of pain
      Yes, I've paid the price
      But look how much I gained
      If I have to
      I can face anything
      I am strong (strong)
      I am invincible (invincible)
      I am squirrel

      I am woman watch me grow
      See me standing toe to toe
      As I spread my lovin' arms across the land
      But I'm still an embryo
      With a long, long way to go
      Until I make my brother understand

      Oh, yes, I am wise
      But it's wisdom born of pain
      Yes, I've paid the price
      But look how much I gained
      If I have to
      I can face anything
      I am strong (strong)
      I am invincible (invincible)
      I am squirrel

      Oh, I am squirrel
      I am invincible
      I am strong

      I am squirrel
      I am invincible
      I am strong
      I am squirrel

      October 7, 2011 at 3:08 am |
    • Redneck louie

      ah likes sqirrel afloatin in gravy

      October 7, 2011 at 5:00 am |
  4. hippypoet

    good morning, who are we athiests abusing today? i was thinking a small sect of hoodoo folks – any takers!

    October 6, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Chuckles

      You evil, rotten, no good, no talent waste of space, the small sect of hoodoo (voodoo?) folks are non of our concern, as evil atheists who are only interested in nothing and ourselves, is christians. They always ask why we hate something which we are sure (because all atheists are postive) there is no god. Well I'm here to tell every christian out there. It's because we're secretly jealous.....yeah thats it, we're secretly jealous of god and want to rebel, because we're evil.

      (P.S. In reality I would much rather pick on the zoroastrians today, or maybe shintoists)

      October 6, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Alfonzo Muchanzo

      Glad to see that you're out there doing good for the world. Good thing those atheists are so smart and moral whereas the Christians are everything that's wrong w society.

      Meanwhile, you're talking about who to abuse today and yesterday I got a letter from a charity I support thanking me and displaying what actions they are working towards with their money received. God bless 🙂

      October 6, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • run run as fast as you can!

      hey, i like the idea of shintoism....everything having an energy, a soul for those too stupid to understand energy.

      but zoroastrians – Ahura mazda is not a very interesting dude, but it was the first monotheiestist religion, however there was a second god like creature in this mytholgy as well, i just can't remember the evil side to this coin.. sry

      October 6, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • hippypoet

      @Alfonzo , oh shut up christian mouth – isn't the pope in town, shouldn't you be on your knees?

      October 6, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Chuckles

      @Run Run, I think it's Ahura Ryu or something, doesn't matter I would much rather take aim at some eastern religions, they are clearly as evil as any western religion. I mean, can't you see all the suicide bombers, the preachers on the side of the streets, the intense ho.mophobia, racism, et al that pervades their society as much as ours?


      W T F? I thought you made your grand exit off this board forever yesterday, what are you doing back? I guess it wasn't so you could go and get a sense of humor because you are still clearly lacking that.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • J.W

      chuckles were you being sarcastic about the eastern religions?

      October 6, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Chuckles


      Ha ha, yes I was..... well at least that the religions in the east do not specifically cause these things to happen in society (There is still racism, ho.mophobia, se.xism and so on) but I think the biggest problem there is still, in part, the same reason Africa is having issues, namely Europeans going over there and taking issue with their way of life and imposing their own on them instead.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • Alfonzo Muchanzo

      @hippy – Angry much?

      @chuckles – Yes I did say that, however I'm slow again at work today and I couldn't resist coming here and checking out all the atheists angrily ranting as usual.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Chuckles


      Like a moth to a flame huh? Well, christians are gluttons for punishment so that makes sense (Sorry, couldn't resist).

      October 6, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • J.W

      Is the pope actually coming out of his castle? Or was that a joke?

      October 6, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • hippypoet

      hey Chuckles – i found it, Angra Mainyu, or Ahriman, "the bad spirit." the opposing god to Ahura Mazda, and that is the correct spelling

      October 6, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • J.W

      Alfonso you need to find a way to make them more angry. You will have to find a new way to deny their rights.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • hippypoet

      no i wouldn't even know if the pope was alive still or not, so of course that was a joke, but... i am still willing to bet that Alfonzo is so g@y for the pope that him and the pope have a sercet pen pal thing going on. whenever the popes in town Alfonzo is in him... the going joke is the second coming! and thats a pun!

      MAY THE ALMIGHTY SUN SHINE UPON YOU ALL, execpt Alfonzo, he still has to come out from under the popes silk!

      October 6, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Chuckles


      Take away my freedom, my rights, my job, my family but if you deny me my right to go to theme parks I will raise an unholy war upon you the likes of which the world has ever seen, I will bring everything I can and then some to see that christianity is expunged from this earth so forecfully that everywhere in the world every cross will become uncrossed, regardless if it's religious or not.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Chuckles


      SAMSONITE! I was way off!

      I remember doing a unit on Zoroastrianism and thought to myself that it probably didn't exist anymore, until I roomed with a zoroastrian a couple of years later when I did a little time in China. They're some crazy folk!

      October 6, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • hippypoet

      @Chuckles, i only know of zoro and his followers because i know that christianity is a giant lie based on other beliefs that were stolen so some lune could lie his way to getting nailed...X marks the spot. everything in christianity can be found in other beliefs years before the creation of christianity, so ANY SMART person can tell that religions are all crap and based on crap that was past down by crappy people who whorshipped crappy fake gods! but i find zoro better then christianity. its way more interesting. oh and those caps weren't for you mr. chuckles. 🙂 Be with the light, May the ALMIGHTY SUN SHOW YOU THE WAY TO TRUTH!

      October 6, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • BRC

      @#%$@#$% CNN. JW, your last comment was funny.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • J.W

      Whoa Chuckles I did not think it would be the atheists to start jihad. I just need to somehow divert them from attacking Christians. Maybe a war between atheists and agnostics.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • hippypoet fan

      I want to belittle people who don't like eggs. Also people should lather up and get naked more. Thanks.

      October 6, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  5. kimsland

    In my view, God committed suicide when the Internet was born. And some of you are still catching up.

    October 5, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  6. kimsland

    Oh hi BO
    Just read your message, sorry about that, I've been a little busy lately.

    I think this short blog above is just trying to insinuate that the church is above the law or something (its a little difficult to understand how its religious actually)
    Anyway, yes I have a question (without belittling)
    How is it that all the non christians are going to hell? There are literally millions and millions of people that your god is sending to hell when they die, because they didn't take jesus (not god) into their life.
    How dare religious christians judge others so poorly. So much so that they have eternal pain in fire (not that you'd feel it since physical feelings on our skin is only about when you're alive)

    So I JUDGE religious christians (and others) who believe in this rot. (someone HAS too)
    They are WRONG. And I'm happy to tell them the errors of their ways, hopefully then any younger people reading will actually open their eyes up and say, wait I'm not religious too (note: Church on Sundays to praise the lord is mandatory)

    If you're (general public) not religious, then stand up and tell these religious fools that what they believe in is hogwash, it's seriously plain stupid. How so called 'intelligent' people go to church is just shocking. STOP going to church and hopefully they close up and go away; then we'll get on with our space age and fixing the Earth (without useless prayers)

    October 5, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • John Richardson

      FWIW, I left Christianity not because I believed that the Christian god does not exist (that came later), but because I realized that IF he exists, he's a horrid cosmic jerk unworthy of worship. People who would worship such a god are mentally akin to those who suck up to guys like Stalin for their own welfare even as these the thug they suck up to kills millions. Indeed, they don't even do it DESPITE the horrid immorality of their favorite cosmic or earthly psychopath, but in a sense BECAUSE of it, as they just don't want to get on the thug's wrong side. It's a faith or loyalty based on cowardice.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Joe

      Kim – you've been grossly misinformed. Read the Bible and get your information there. The beauty (and tragedy) of Scripture is that no one's shoving anyone down your throat. You make the choice – yes or no. No one's judging you and if they are, they miss the point because the same level of judgment they impose will be applied to them. That's about as fair as you can get.

      October 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  7. Uncouth Swain

    The government needs to stop interfering with religious beliefs altogether. Religion is and always will be the foundation of this country. This is a Christian nation and no one can argue that.

    October 5, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      The carnival called, they need you at the merry-go-round and then the super slide.

      October 5, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • John Richardson

      It's a secular republic, as has been demonstrated time and again by relevant quotes from, eg, the Treaty of Tripoli, which couldn't be clearer in its refutation of this oft repeated falsehood. And I find it appalling that anyone would expect non-Christians to acknowledge that this country belongs to Christians or Christianity.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Just trolling methinks.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Uncouth Swain

      Hey -Uncouth S...

      You Said: " The government needs to stop interfering with religious beliefs altogether. "

      Really...? So, if 'religious beliefs' of someone should include murdering someone... should our government 'not' interfere with that ...?

      I'm wondering if this is the 'real' Uncouth, as your postings are typically not of this caliber.

      As for the 'Christian nation' part, I'm definitely in agreement with @JohnR. here. Also, I still have yet to hear or see any kind of a cogent or reasonable argument that supports your assertion from anyone: " This is a Christian nation and no one can argue that. "

      We are not a 'theocracy.' !!! We are a secular republic with a multi-tude of various religions and denominations.

      So, other than maybe most people claim to be 'christian'... again, other than that, how do you get that "This 'is' a Christian nation" etc... etc... ??



      October 6, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      I see plenty of claims otherwise. None of these claims hold water. Simply stated, prove me wrong.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Uncouth Swain

      Well... you're the one making the claim. How about 'you' begin by defining what 'you' mean by our country being a "christian nation"... so we know what exactly 'your' definition is.

      Then we can go from there. Who knows... maybe you know something the rest of us don't know...? I think you know me by know... I'm always open to being wrong, and learning something new.



      October 7, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Uncouth Swain

      **know me by (now). ***apologies***


      October 7, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • HotAirAce

      @Uncouth Swain

      Please explain how the fact that the USA does not have an official religion, that the 1st amendment gaurantees freedom of religion to all and that a founding father clearly says that the USA is not a christian nation supports your unfounded assertion that the USA is a christian nation. To paraphrase a recent statement by a believer asshole, "This is not a Christian nation and no one can argue that it is."

      October 7, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  8. There It Is Then

    I like eggs. I likes em hard boiled, scrambled, sunny side up, over easy, over medium, poached. I loves me some eggs.

    October 5, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • News Flash

      You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, what.

      October 5, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      @news flash
      Well, I don't rightly care for omlettes, but i do loves me some eggs. Fried, hard boilled, poached, scrambled with a little cheese, Sunny side up, benedict, raw on an oyster (quail). Yes sir I loves me some eggs. Off topic? Naw sir, them justices be just a bunch of egg heads. Maybe their tasty, maybe they are chicken. As long as I get to eat I am good. I loves me some eggs (and chicken!) Let justice prevail and pass the Ostrich Egg!

      October 5, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Your devotion to the Iron Age Ovum Mythology is laughable.
      That you would take seriously a cook book written for middle eastern sheep herders 2000 years ago and use it to justify cooking a tasty breakfast in the modern world is simpyl absurd.
      The Egg Council is responsible for the molestation of countless chickens throughout the ages, and then sends the culprits off to another Farm without ever involving the SPCA. It's an organized, criminal conspiracy!

      October 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      I like eggs too.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  9. Colin

    I love it when judges are called upon to define the limits of religious freedom. They are always forced to confront the fact that religious beliefs are sheer nonsense. This is why, whenever there is something REALLY at stake, religious beliefs have to give way.

    For example, if Christians wish to pretend that Jesus was born on the 25th of December or that getting together and symbolically eating the guy’s flesh and blood is somehow important, such practices are protected, because they are harmless and, if wrong, nobody gets adversely affected.

    But, if they try and withhold medical care from a child, kill an animal in a barbaric manner or otherwise act in a manner inimical to another person, they are shut down. It is tantamount to the state saying, “look, we will indulge you as long as nothing concrete is at risk, but don’t try and risk anything on your obscure superst.itions.”

    October 5, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Well said, mate !


      October 5, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • fred

      Six of them just drank and ate with the Bishop at mass. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

      October 5, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Well, as someone with serious sleep disorders, what I don't understand is why the employee had to leave her post for several months to be treated for narcolepsy. It puts a pretty serious burden on ANY employer to have to hold a position for months on end for an absent employee. I wish this case was about the reasonable limits for how long an employee can be absent and expect a job to be waiting for them when they get back.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  10. zadoc

    It's absolutely absurd that churches think they can fire people who are protected under the ADA. Don't they get enough tax breaks as it is?

    POLL: Should religion based employers be able to fire people who qualify under the Americans With Disabilities Act?
    Vote: http://www.wepolls.com/p/3474001

    October 5, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  11. Reality

    The important question is whether Lutheranism or any other branch of Christianity a form of consti-tutionally-protected religion.

    For example:

    Is not insanity and/or semi-fictional accounts of the founder of any religion enough to declare said religion null and void?

    JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself."

    Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694

    Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with John's gospels being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say? And to make "his" sayings and doings a religion is legally unacceptable.

    Next case !!!

    October 5, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Reality

      The important question is whether Lutheranism or any other branch of Christianity qualifies as a form of consti-tutionally-protected religion.

      October 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • .........

      remember to hit report abuse to all reality posts

      October 6, 2011 at 7:55 pm |







    October 5, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • hippypoet

      good advertising....do you have a publisher?

      October 5, 2011 at 4:34 pm |

      if my life ever becomes the summation of a single comment on a cnn blog

      i will eat a round from the business end of my ruger redhawk .44

      October 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  13. Hasa Diga Eebowai

    Separation of church and state... and get rid of the tax breaks too!

    October 5, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  14. wish you were smarter

    tis ok, i know the dumb shallow minded loser has hopes and dreams, but they often suck at life and should be left alone to die a lonely death, maybe in a dessert or somewhere warm...close to the ALMIGHTY SUN!

    October 5, 2011 at 4:09 pm |

      what kind of dessert

      i like cheesecake

      October 5, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  15. wish you were smarter

    tis ok, i know the dumb shallow minded loser has hopes and dreams, but they often such at life and should be left alone to die a lonely death, maybe in a dessert or somewhere warm...close to the ALMIGHTY SUN!

    October 5, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • wish you were smarter

      oh yes, all hail the sun. aferall, it is so much brighter than you.

      October 5, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • wish you were smarter

      yeah, now your getting it! 🙂


      October 5, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • kady

      That was not kind.grow up a bit, show some social graced my goodness child! How old r u like 10!!?? U spelled Almighty Son wrong btw's. (Yes I realize that u ment it as sun to be rude due to ur lack of belief in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ) just grow up a bit k kid? U don't hav to believe in something to not insult it w/o good knowlage to back upur judgements.

      October 5, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • hippypoet , the prophet

      wow kady, you insult me simply because i lack of belief in an invisible god with a son name jesus – and oh and your wrong his name was joshua.... but as smart as you are, i'm sure you already knew that. simpleminded twit.

      October 5, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  16. hippypoet

    I occasionally P00P my pants. True story!

    October 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • wish you were smarter

      does your mommy lick it up for you?... all imitations of hippy are simply trying to be what they can never be – smart, logical, intelligent...too bad... and as they say – imitation is the highest form of flattery, i should say thank you, but i am me – i only say thank you when it was something i ask for or need. something freely given has no value untill value is placed on it.

      October 5, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • wish you were smarter

      Oh yes, all imitation is highest form of flattery. There is no such thing as mocking somebody for their stupidity. All hail hippy/wish/clown/goober.

      October 5, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • hippypoet

      lol, hehe, you called me a goober. my mother calls me that, as well as my wife – here i have a name for you – dingleberry. lol thats what you are.

      October 5, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  17. hippypoet

    separation between church and state! simple. done. besides religions are all fake anyway.


    October 5, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • hippypoet

      Don't copy me. Your regurgitate tired old sun argument is rather lame. You make yourself look like a complete moron.

      October 5, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • hippypoet

      Don't CTRL-V me bro!!!!

      October 5, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, please, just SHUT UP, YOU IDIOTS.

      None of you make any sense at all.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:16 pm |

      ctrl v is a paste function in microsoft windows tom

      children know this

      and youre calling people idiots

      pot meet kettle

      pot smash kettle in the face with the fury of a thousand samurai warriors

      October 6, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.