Supreme Court delivers win for religious liberty, protecting religious schools from nondiscrimination suits

by Peter Heck · Jul 8th, 2020 3:32 pm

Last Updated Jul 9th, 2020 at 12:57 am

In a 7-2 decision Wednesday, the Supreme Court has greatly expanded the protection of religious institutions against nondiscrimination laws, allowing them to fire those teaching religion for any reason.

In the majority opinion, written by George W. Bush appointee Samuel Alito, the Court ruled,

"the independence of religious institutions in matters of 'faith and doctrine' is closely linked to independence in what the Court has termed ‘matters of church government.'"

The ruling does not exempt religious institutions from all secular laws, but does make it clear that the government should not encroach upon "their autonomy with respect to internal management decisions that are essential to the institution's central mission."

The case in question, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, incorporated a handful of similar appeals, and sought to answer whether a 2012 decision that allowed churches to fire "ministers" at will applied also those who taught religion at their institution. The Court said it did.

"What qualifies as 'ministerial' is an inherently theological question, and thus one that cannot be resolved by civil courts through legal analysis," [Justice Clarence Thomas] wrote.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented in the ruling, writing that the decision permits religious entities to "discriminate widely and with impunity."

? The win for religious liberty advocates comes just days after they suffered a landmark loss in the Bostock v. Clayton County case regarding gay and transgender employment.


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