Supreme Court Rules Religion Is Special … This Time

Supreme Court Rules Religion Is Special … This Time

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Is religion special? In its decision on Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. E.E.O.C., the Supreme Court indicates that it is. That may be the one thing that they got right in this case.

The U.S. has on the books a number of valuable laws against discrimination in the workplace, and all organizations (businesses, nonprofits, schools, governments) are expected to abide by these laws. Except religions, or so it now seems. According to the Tabor ruling, religious groups get a pass on the law when it comes to employees who are considered “ministerial.” The right to the free exercise of religion, says the court, entails a right to hire and fire those who lead a religious group without government interference. Because the court refuses to define just who may count as “ministerial”—and the case in fact involves a schoolteacher who taught mostly secular subjects—the decision effectively grants religious groups a degree of power over their employees that no other group can claim.

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