In a huge ruling today, the Supremes agreed that religious schools may hire and fire ministers of the gospel without being subject to court review of their decisions.
Specifically, a terminated employee who is a ‘minister’ role can not sue such an employer for discrimination.
UPDATE: After reading a few articles, it looks like this was a much more serious case than I thought. By the time the SCOTUS looked at the case, it may have developed into a general attack on all churches who have any pastors.
You will be hearing a lot more about this case. I am guessing there will be a substantial ripple effect on other cases working through the appeal process.
Saw the first comment in a blog by Pastor Paul McCain – Good News for Churches in America – Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Church.
An internet search gives this article from the LA Times as the first listing on the ruling: Supreme Court: Church-state separation extends to religious schools. There are 233 related stories.
In the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), most youth workers along with most teachers in parochial schools are “called.” This means they are a minister of the gospel under tax and employment law. In addition, there are denominational rules that govern when you can fire a ‘called’ worker.
In the LCMS, women are not ordained as pastors, but there is another category of employment for other types of full-time church workers. This ruling applies to that other group of people.
Good news for religious freedom
This is a big deal for the LCMS because of the very large school system within the denomination.
It is also a big deal for all Protestants and those in the Roman Catholic tradition. There are a lot of independent Christian schools in the Protestant tradition and the Catholic tradition has a very large school system. I’m not sure how many of those schools would actually put their staff into a ‘minister of the gospel’ role.
This is also a big deal for those in the Jewish faith, Islam, and any other religious tradition with ordained, licensed, or commissioned “ministers of the gospel.”
Oh, by the way, the ruling was unanimous. Unanimous!
Overall, a very good day for religious freedom.