We don't need courts or government bureaucrats messing with the internal operations of churches.
A unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme court in a relatively low-profile case has struck a blow for religious freedom.
The court ruled this week that religious schools are shielded from discrimination suits filed by administrators and teachers if those individuals are serving as "ministers" of the faith.
Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said the government is barred from forcing "an unwanted minister" on a religious school. The ruling in no way threatens the legal rights of religious school employees who are not designated as church "ministers."
While the court's ruling was definitive, it is highly regrettable that the Obama administration sought to weaken the "ministerial exception" as it relates to the free exercise of religion clause contained in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. How can churches be free of government interference if their schools can be forced to accept religious messengers not of their choosing?
The case involves a former Lutheran school teacher from Michigan who taught religion, led students in prayers and was considered a minister of the faith.
Other teachers in the school did not hold that designation.
The teacher, Cheryl Perich, had a parting of the ways with church leaders after a school-related dispute led her to threaten litigation. Diagnosed with narcolepsy, she sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, won support from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and, ultimately, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Disputes like this are relatively rare, but it's good that the U.S. Supreme Court has established a bright line ruling that separates the ministerial employees of religious schools from those who are not. Notre Dame law Professor Rick Garrett described the decision as "one of the court's most important church-state decisions" because it "protects religious liberty by forbidding governments from second-guessing religious communities' decisions about who should be their teachers, leaders and ministers."
The "free exercise" clause of the First Amendment was designed to shield all religions from interference from the government, whether that interference is malicious or well-intended. Giving the government the green light to meddle would have established a slippery slope leading to greater interference, a possibility now foreclosed by this sensible ruling.