Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
|Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission|
|Argued October 5, 2011
Decided January 11, 2012
|Full case name||Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School, Petitioner v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al.|
|Citations||565 U.S. ___ (more)
132 S. Ct. 694; 181 L. Ed. 2d 650; 2012 U.S. LEXIS 578; 80 U.S.L.W. 4056; 114 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 129; 95 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P44,385; 25 Am. Disabilities Cas. (BNA) 1057; 23 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 46
|Prior history||Judgement for defendant, 582 F.Supp.2d 881 (E.D. Mich. 2008), reversed and remanded, 597 F.3d 769 (6th Cir. 2010); certiorari granted, 563 U. S. ___ (2011).|
|The Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment bar suits brought on behalf of ministers against their churches, claiming termination in violation of employment discrimination laws.|
|Majority||Roberts, joined by unanimous|
|Concurrence||Alito, joined by Kagan|
|U.S. Const. amend. I|
Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 565 U.S. ___ (2012), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court unanimously ruled that federal discrimination laws do not apply to religious organizations' selection of religious leaders.
In 1999, Cheryl Perich started teaching at Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford, Michigan. While Perich led students in prayer and taught a religion class several days a week, her job primarily consisted of teaching grade school art, science, social studies and music. In 2004, Perich left on disability and was diagnosed with narcolepsy. In 2005, after being cleared by her doctors to go back to work, the school told her that they already hired someone else. Perich then threatened to file suit, so the school promptly fired her for "insubordination and disruptive behavior."
Opinion of the Court
All nine Supreme Court justices agreed with the decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts that "the Establishment Clause prevents the Government from appointing ministers, and the Free Exercise Clause prevents it from interfering with the freedom of religious groups to select their own." Moreover, because the respondent in this case was a minister within the meaning of the ministerial exception, the First Amendment requires dismissal of her employment discrimination suit against her religious employer. The decision explicitly left open the question whether religious organizations could be sued for other reasons with the sentence "We express no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct."
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurrence that went beyond the decision that the immunity from equal employment laws applies only to religious leaders. In his concurrence, he wrote that he would like to "defer to a religious organization’s good-faith understanding of who qualifies as a minister."
Justice Samuel Alito wrote a concurring opinion, which Elena Kagan joined, stating that the word "minister" used in the decision should extend to similar titles for other religions such as Rabbi for Judaism or Imam in Islam.
The Family Research Council expressed support for the decision. In a press release, a spokesperson for the organization stated, "We are pleased that the Supreme Court rejected the Obama administration's profoundly troubling claim of power over churches, and glad to see that the Supreme Court has stayed out of the Lutheran Church's affairs and allowed its internal rules as a body of believers to stand." Five days following the decision, Mitt Romney praised the decision saying, "We are very fortunate [to have people] who are willing to stand up for religious tolerance and religious liberty and the First Amendment of this Constitution in this country."
- Barnes, Robert (January 11, 2012). "Supreme Court: Discrimination Laws Do Not Protect Certain Employees of Religious Groups". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
- Felton, Ryan (January 15, 2012). "U.S. Supremes go 9-0 in Redford church-state case, but aren’t exactly clear". Metro Times.
- "FRC Applauds Supreme Court Ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Case". Sacramento Bee. January 11, 2011.
- Friedman, Emily (January 16, 2011). "In Appeal to Evangelical Crowd, Romney Voices Support of Ministerial Exemption". ABC News.
- "The Ministerial Exception". New York Times editorial. January 12, 2012.
- Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC at supremecourt.gov
- Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC at americanbar.org