January 12th, 2012
09:58 AM ET
My Take: Huge win for religious liberty at the Supreme Court
By Douglas Laycock, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Douglas Laycock, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Virginia, represented Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in the case the Supreme Court decided Wednesday.
(CNN) - Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision holding that ministers cannot sue their churches for employment discrimination was a huge win for religious liberty. It was unanimous, it was sweeping and it was unqualified.
This decision was about separation of church and state in its most fundamental sense. Churches do not run the government, select government leaders, or set criteria for choosing government leaders.
And government does not run the churches, select religious leaders, or set criteria for choosing religious leaders. The Court unanimously reaffirmed that principle on Wednesday.
Cheryl Perich was a commissioned minister at the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford, Michigan. She taught religion every day; she led prayers and devotional exercises every day; she planned and led chapel services.
She also taught the rest of the fourth-grade curriculum. She was required to complete eight college-level theology courses; she was “called” to her office by a vote of the congregation; and she was commissioned as a “Minister of Religion.”
When she got sick, Hosanna-Tabor carried her at full pay and full benefits for seven months. This was a terrible hardship in a church and school with seven teachers, 84 students and deep financial problems.
In its effort to preserve a job for Perich to return to, the school put three grades in one classroom for a whole semester. It went far beyond the requirements of law in its efforts to accommodate her disability.
Finally, at the semester break, the school reluctantly decided it had to replace her. When she provoked a confrontation at the school and threatened to sue the church, the congregation rescinded her call, for insubordination and for violating one of the church doctrines she was supposed to teach and model.
There was a well developed church grievance process that she could have used, run by the denomination, with hearing officers independent of the local church.
And there was longstanding church teaching that disputes over ministry must be resolved in that process, by Lutherans who understood the church and its faith, and not by the civil courts.
The details of this employment dispute were not the issue in the Supreme Court. Rather, the issue was who decides.
If ministers were allowed to sue for employment discrimination, judges and juries would wind up deciding who is a good minister, worthy of retention, and who is not. These cases end with a jury deciding whether the employer had a good enough reason to justify its decision.
In Perich’s case, a jury would have decided whether she was fit for Lutheran ministry even after she defied Lutheran teaching.
The Supreme Court unanimously said that ministers cannot sue their churches for employment discrimination. It defined “ministers” broadly, to include priests and rabbis and imams and persons with mixed religious and secular duties.
And it said that the church need not explain its decision, because the reasons are none of the court’s business. The selection and retention of ministers is entirely the responsibility of the churches.
Some churches will exercise this authority wisely; some may not. Denominations and associations of churches would do well to establish grievance procedures that really work, like the one that Cheryl Perich failed to use.
But whatever the ratio of wise decisions to bad decisions, it is far better for the American tradition of religious liberty for the selection of ministers to be entrusted to the churches those ministers serve.
Wednesday’s decision also protects the right of churches to define the qualifications of their clergy. Some churches have requirements that are forbidden to secular employers.
Catholics, Orthodox Jews, and some Protestant denominations do not ordain women. Catholics require celibacy, violating laws on marital status discrimination in many states. Some denominations refuse to ordain sexually active gays and lesbians, violating sexual orientation laws in many states.
There are no exceptions written into the discrimination laws to protect these longstanding religious practices. They have been protected only by the constitutional rule that the Court reaffirmed Wednesday – that ministers cannot sue their churches for employment discrimination.
Of course, some members of these faiths would like to change these rules. But who is eligible for ordination is a theological issue to be fought out within each religious tradition, not an issue to be decided by courts or legislatures.
It would be absurd for courts to order an end to Catholic celibacy rules, or to entertain a class action alleging that women are underrepresented in the clergy of some denomination that ordains women but has not ordained as many women as men. The legal rule that prevents such lawsuits is the ministerial exception that the Supreme Court reaffirmed Wednesday.
Both the rules for selecting ministers, and the evaluation of ministers in individual cases, are decisions for the nation’s religious organizations – not the government. That is the welcome meaning of Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Douglas Laycock.
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.
lie, damn lies and worst of all, religious belief.
" Churches do not run the government, select government leaders, or set criteria for choosing government leaders"
Are you on drugs? What country do you live in? Because last I checked, the religious right wing has it's filthy claws on almost every aspect of government. So you're statement is wrong sir, I do not agree the way things are, but to say that the church is totally free of having a say in who gets elected, what laws are passed, or SET the criteria of who can hold office, is blind.
That's just not true. Religious people obviously have a voice, and can raise fundraisers to support a candidate. But a pastor cant just be like, "ok Obama is gonna be president again." Just like the govt cant say, "Ok, this gay guy is gonna be pastor."
Fair is fair.
Okay, so Corporate America doesn't run the government, select government leaders, or set criteria for choosing government leaders. How come, then, when an individual or group (class) of individuals sue for unfair hiring or labor practices do the courts often side with the plaintiffs? It sounds fishy to me. Ministers of Churches that other people own are simply employees and should have the same rights as any other employee.
Captain America. Canadian's really? You get out of the trailer park much? What is your position on "the French?", Jews? Mexicans? Entertain me, I am bored right now.
There is a lot of hate coming from these Christians. I am guessing that Jesus would be so proud of his people. From my reading of the New Testament, I don't think that hate was the direction he was headed. True Christians would just be sorry for us all because of the whole Hell thing, and move on.
I read the article – couldn't find anything about hate in it. So, if I don't hire a gay, athiest, socialist, alcoholic to babysit my children, I must be a 'hater' and should end up in court? In America, we used to call that good parenting.
"This decision was about separation of church and state in its most fundamental sense. Churches do not run the government, select government leaders, or set criteria for choosing government leaders."
HA HA HA – I take it the author REALLY isn't up on curren tevents, as the last 3 assertions are OBVIOUSLY incorrect. Sadly, the right wing would LOVE to have a theocracy in this country.
The jews denied at the very outset that there ever was such a jewish person as described by the christians when the christians first appeared in Jeruselem. And it is that denial that has spawned this christian hatered now called anti-semitism. Yet the jews continue to refute the story of Jesus Chritst despite having being slaughtered again and again by the christians for refusing to acknowledge their deity.
great victory its good for every one........................:)
Just a thought for my fellow atheists...
There's no need to pick on fringe Christians. By all means, argue with them and explain why they're wrong as an intellectual exercise for yourself. But never hope to convince them of anything. Lobby against them forcefully when they try to enshrine their interpretation of scripture in our laws because they are wrong to do so.
But remember that picking on them recreationally just makes you look petulant. They already look foolish and their arguments already look weak. They are marginalized and they're on their way out. Time is on our side; no Christian population has become more Christian as time passes in the modern era and America certainly isn't trying to buck that trend.
Simply put, be better than them. Be more moral. Be more rational. Be more kind. People like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Fred Phelps are doing a great job of turning popular opinion against evangelicals all on their own right now. Give it time.
(George is another, albeit less widely known, example of a Christian who serves to drive people from Christianity. Way to go, George.)
Denver, you know you are right but picking on George is so much fun and I think he likes it. Please????
Whatever floats your boat, Scrutinizer. Just keep in mind that Christians like George seem to thrive on delusions of persecution and the sense that a lot of people are sincerely interested in their opinions. Ignoring them or firmly refuting their arguments seem like good ways to deal with the problem but mocking them just seems to feed the fire.
I'd be okay with this IF you are immune from Governmental oversight regarding equal rights in the workplace, then you are no longer under tax exempt status within that government.
Abusing someone is never okay regardless of whether they pay taxes or not or are religious or not.
You might be willing to let someone murder your family because of religion but I'm not willing to let that happen and it doesn't matter if the religious person paid taxes or not. Wrong actions should not be allowed just because they pay a fee or tax.
So we disagree on that.
George. Didn't you so kindly call me a "demon" a few days back?
tony, George like most Christians and religious people are not Moral, considerate and are mostly apathetic.
George, you are an unkind person. Why in the world would God want hateful people like you in heaven? You are not born again. It would have been best if you were never born at all I think. Maybe God needs thugs as bouncers in the Angel VIP room? Don't look, remember, you are perfect!
Why do you think it's ok to constantly bash us believers and then expect kindness in return? Then you play the victim when anyone says anything in defense of themselves. Pretty stupid, don't you think? Oh that's right, you don't think. You're running in full spray automation. Shove your rhetoric, shove your lame insults, shove your "poor me, george wasn't nice to me" comments. You do it to everyone else. You can dish it out, but you can't take it. You're nothing more than a whining b1tch.
George, you hurt me with your words.
I don't even believe in heaven and I am a closer to getting there than you LOL.
"Why do you think it's ok to constantly bash us believers and then expect kindness in return?"
Hey hypocrite, try actually reading your bible sometime. You're give the rest of your fellow believers a bad name.
So, then knowing that the Faithful will continue to struggle and painfully "turn the cheek" , are the Atheist going to let up on the insults in here even a little bit? I can respect George's being upset because of the attacks by some of the Atheist but just like I can respect and understand some of the anger that is flowing from some in the Atheist camp here on the blog. With both sides hurting do you not expect to hear an occasional "ouch" from the side of the Faithful?
Mark, there isn't nearly as many insults as you make out. Most atheists just ask tough questions that religious people find insulting even though there is no insult to be found.
This is because of the built-in reactions of someone who is a member of a cult.
Look up brain-washing and indoctrination in a psychological journal or website. Or read a book about it.
The rabid religious reactions are because of their delusional, brainwashed mindset, and have little or nothing to do with any actual insults in a majority of cases.
This has nothing to do with insults and has everything to do with psychology.
How deep you are into the belief determines your stubborness and hostility to anything that might threaten that belief no matter how clearly any facts stare you in the face. That's just how people work.
The tighter you hold on to a cherished but untrue belief, whether it's Santa or Jesus, the more hostile and stubborn you will be against any actual reason, facts, logic, or common sense to the contrary.
Like Republicans who insist that Reagan was a messiah and saved us from the "Red Menace" of communism and that anything he said is to be worshiped. There are people like that in the GOP. They really worship Reagan.
And if you try to point out Reagan's lack of understanding of real-world issues and his clearly bad economic ideas, why you might as well be saying Jesus is gay! I mean the reaction is ridiculous and way out of proportion.
Haven't you met Republicans like that? I have. Many times.
Again, George just proves it again and again. George will die a very lonely, sad death. It is very difficult indeed to imagine such a hateful person having friends or family who care if he lives or dies. No loving God would want his foul stench near Him.
Be nice, George is pushing to be a member of the Deuteronomy 23:1 club. That is worse than Hell
Right.....George has no penis, or at least only one ball. It is all making since now. Well does a Eunuch make a good bouncer?
If they do they must not be very good at it because Solomon need a couple hundred.
Oh look here. More insults from the whining b1tch.
THE CASE IS CLOSED.
While this is true, it's kind of a shrug-inducing statement unless you are arguing the point that Christians are capable of doing evil which is something that I doubt most Christians would deny.
Hitler was not a Christian. Hitler was his own god, the godhead of national socialism. Any argument to the contrary does not stand up to close examination. Hitlers dealings with the catholic church were no more sincere and truthful than his dealings with Neville Chamberlain.
No...Hitler was a hypocrite.
And Einstein an atheist
Prayer changes things
Thank you sir may I have another!
I'm amused at the notion that, in being an atheist, I harm all living things around me. Is the Sphere Of Atheism(!) that surrounds me currently harming the plant on my desk? What's the range on this thing? Does it work particularly well against theists?
I don't care what one consenting cult member does to another consenting cult member provided they both are of legal age. ANY child endangerment or abuse should always be a civic/secular matter and reporting of same a legal requirement.
And we do not care for the advise of a bull sh it canadian. Mind your own f'n business and continue to screw up canada. Don't tread on US. There's your sign
Does it make you feel good to troll these boards for Canadians? Are you that pathetic of a person?
Defender of Truth Justice AND The American Way? You bet I'm one of those kind of people! Tell me how do you get the foul stench of canadian but out of your mouth? There's your sign
I wonder if it's possible for you to post anything even remotely intelligent, let alone rational.
When an American goes down the road to being a foreign ass kisser it would be good to know how they can lose the foul taste. In the interests of their fellow citizens, I would think, most appropriate, most intelligent. There's your sign
Aye matey the good capt'n has made a point. Which side of the border do ye favor?
This hotair Canadian doesn't ever represent Canada. It represents perversion,murder and immorality on a wide scale.
Foreign a$$ kisser? You really do need some professional help if me calling you on trolling after specifically Canadians all the time translates into kissing up to someone foreign. Besides "foreign" is merely an issue of location. To one in Europe you are foreign and to an american someone from Europe is foreign. Instead of being content in merely addressing the points made you insult and dismiss. You show your own arrogance and idiocy in these boards.
@The Old Salt
I favor humanity, although from the actions of the world at large keeping any kind of faith in humanity gets more difficult by the day. And precisely what point has he made? That he hates Canadians because they are Canadian? Not really a point more of a hateful statement.
I had always heard California had all the wackos. Now it looks like there is a serious anti American contender from Hawaii.
W,ake up and smell the coffee hawaii. The issue is not that the ass holes are canadians, it is that they are over here trying to influence our opinions. Read this carefully American issues are none of their F'n business. There's your sign
Anti American? Well think what you want it's not like you know me and I know you. No skin off my back. I just happen to be against hateful statements and people who feel that it's ok to cyber stalk a specific tag and constantly degrade their nationality. If that is anti american to you well then that's you.
And the fact that the statement he made didn't call for anyone to agree with him or accept his view means nothing? Maybe you should write to CNN and request that they only leave the blogs on here open to IP addresses that originate from the U.S. You feel HotAirAce is attempting to influence people, then hit report abuse or something. Following around and commenting on all his posts just makes you look pathetic though.
Hey hawaii you and your qu eer lovin pinko commie rugrats can all just kiss my ass . There's your sign
By that you only reinforce my conclusion that you are completely intolerant to any who does not share your views exactly, and that you are so insecure and unsatisfied with yourself that you need to degrade others merely so you can feel perhaps a tiny bit better about yourself and go on with your day.
HawaiiGuest, I do appreciate you taking CA to task and understand it has nothing to do with whether or not you agree with anything I post. I do not react to him anymore 'cause he never says anything of substance and I am confident that any reasonable person, regardless of their nationality, will figure out what a fool he is
Sounds like CA is nothing but a sad person who couldn't get much out of his life and simply likes to pick out something from pop culture that he does not even begin to understand..pathetic, really..
CA.. if you want to do something that will make your country proud, enlist yourself.. or create some sort of value to the community around you. Insulting others to simply feel better about yourself is infantile and NOT the American way!
This coming from an American proud of his heritage and what we represent
religious liberty = the choice to believe in santa because you are too much of a p*ssy to work for a living
Here is a good moral Christian man and some of his wisdom. (I never get tired of this)
The 10 Stupidest Things Pat Robertson Ever Said
10. "Lord, give us righteous judges who will not try to legislate and dominate this society. Take control, Lord! We ask for additional vacancies on the court." –Pat Robertson
9. "Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the ho.m.os.e.x.uals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history." –Pat Robertson
8. "I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you, This is not a message of hate - this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor." –Pat Robertson, on "gay days" at Disneyworld
7. "(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." –Pat Robertson
6. "I know this is painful for the ladies to hear, but if you get married, you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband. Christ is the head of the household and the husband is the head of the wife, and that's the way it is, period." –Pat Robertson
5. "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. And don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for his help because he might not be there." –Pat Robertson, after the city of Dover, Pennsylvania voted to boot the current school board, which inst.ituted an intelligent design policy that led to a federal trial
4. "God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible and he says 'This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, 'No, this is mine.' ... He was dividing God's land. And I would say, 'Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations, or the United States of America.' God says, 'This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.'" –Pat Robertson, on why Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke
3. "Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up" –Pat Robertson, on nuking the State Department
2. "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with." –Pat Robertson, calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
1. "It may be a blessing in disguise. ... Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. Haitians were originally under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon the third, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you will get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal. Ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other." –Pat Robertson, on the earthquake in Haiti that destroyed the capital and killed tens of thousands of people, Jan. 13, 2010
A nice list there. Nothing like honest religious opinions from a televangelist like Robertson. I always love the looks on the faces of people sitting next to him when he says stuff like that. They know he's nuts but always try to keep a straight face.
In fairness to normal Christians, I think Robertson is a poor yardstick by which to judge anyone. Every group has a psychotic uncle who shows up to family functions, gets drunk, and does/says something impossibly stupid.
What a great thing it is, that his candidacy for president failed. We dodged that bullet.
denver, I have to disagree, there are MANY like him. They are on the radio. They are on TV. They are supporting the GOP. There is something very, very wrong.
I believe that George exists.
George 30 years ago
No gay will ever get elected because we live in a democratic republic and most people believe in God and hate gays.
What's funny is I know of many gays and lesbians that have high level jobs in some of the most prestigious companies in America. I even have gay friends who have high level positions working for christian schools. They are part of our society but it's unfortunate that people like George only believe what they hear in church and see on TV.
You don't have to put on the red light!
Those days are over!
You don't have to sell your body to the night!
Go back far enough and he would be saying the same against Catholics.
Farther back and he would be a Catholic saying that about Jews.
Farther still and he would be a Jew saying that about non-Jews.
Farther again and he would be a Priest of Jupiter saying that those Jews shouldn't become Roman Senators.
Ah, bigotry, where is thy sense? Nowhere, I fear, for thy addled brains be useless and thy ignorance be great.
George will die a very lonely, sad death. It is very difficult indeed to imagine such a hateful person having friends or family who care if he lives or dies.
No. When I die, I'll go to heaven. I'm happy. Probably because I wasn't r@ped and molested when I was a child.
Thanks for that loving reply, George.
If for no other reason than that you said such a thing, I gladly reject your fake god, fake Jesus, and piece of bullshlt holy spirit forever as being clearly evil ideas puked up by a bunch of goat rapists and child molesters.
Like I care. You're the one who will have to answer for your own actions on the day of judgment. I don't have to answer for your ignorance. OOOOOOOOh, reject God again. You're such a rebel. I bet you feel like a real hard man now.
Oh, George. It's so cute the way you pretend to be an arch-conservative! Really adorable. You aren't quite Oscar-worthy, but you will surely convince the idiots here that you mean what you post.
I know better.
Does it make you feel like a big tough man to condemn others to eternal torment that they obviously don't believe in? You seem very proud of your own piousness. Oh but wait pride....pride...wasn't that one of the 7 deadly sins? Oh well guess your not so righteous afterall, but then again I'm sure many other people could have told you that.
I didn't condemn him. I simply said he'll have to answer for his own actions. Go on, keep reading into everything I say so you can nitpick it further. Does it get you off? I bet it does.
Oh really? Then tell me what did you mean when you said "answer for his own actions"? Your implications and intent are clear. You seem to think that because it was not said outright that you are somehow better for it. Words do not matter the intent behind them are what matter.
The assumption of intent does not in fact indicate intent. Keep reading into it.
Then quit dodging the question. What did you mean when you said "answer for his own actions"? What does that entail?
It's clear you've already come to a stunning conclusion on the matter. I'd be wasting my time to explain it to you since you have made it abundantly clear that you don't share my beliefs. Instead, you're happier to attack, assume, and attack some more based on your assumptions and the hate you have for believers. And then, you have the balls to wonder why we fight back. Your buddy up there is constantly harassing us. Doesn't matter what we say. ALWAYS on the offense. And believers are always stuck on the defense. The moment we say anything remotely cross, your kind get all up in arms and offended. You know what? Screw you.
Actually, I wasn't trying very hard otherwise I'd have made a much nastier and polite reply.
As to my "having to answer" for my actions after death, I am totally laughing at that and totally unconcerned because I KNOW there is no god as described in the Bible.
We don't mind you fighting back, George. It gives us something to talk about, after all.
When you attack someone for being a victim of child abuse, however, you've really sunk to a new low.
That really plssed me off at the time. Quickly vented, quickly forgotten. I try not to carry a bunch of grudges around with me because they are not very handy things to have and tend to make things worse.
If you are holding grudges, George, maybe you should get away for a while and take a vacation from all this.
It's not healthy to be so angry and hateful. I oughta know, right?
Listen to your Uncle Ironicus, George and go get laid or something.
Take a week or two off from the internet. I can guarantee you that you will feel it to be quite liberating and healthy after only a few days.
I have no hate toward most believers. How can I when most of my family are believers. The main difference is that my family would not be so crass as to type " Probably because I wasn't r@ped and molested when I was a child." That was beyond anything I have seen from you and that is why I jumped into this thread. Central may not have been overtly nice, but past posts have taught us what you think of any that do not share your beliefs. There is no justification for your horrible comment and I really hope that eventually you come to realize how much of an as.s you were being with that comment. As for making assumptions, correct me then on what you meant by answering for his own actions on the day of judgement. If I have your meaning all wrong then what did you mean?