The U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision about the role of the government in churches, even in cases where an employee alleges unlawful discrimination. The Court held that the government may not, under any circumstances, interfere with hiring and firing decisions by religious groups.
Under the Court’s ruling, a religious group is defined as one that works to serve and employ members of its own faith. The decision will affect teachers, ministers, rabbis, youth leaders and other employees of religious organizations throughout the country. The rationale behind the decision centered on the First Amendment and the right of religious groups to be free from government involvement.
“The Establishment Clause prevents the government from appointing ministers,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “The Free Exercise Clause [of the First Amendment] prevents it from interfering with the freedom of religious groups to select their own.” Supporters of the decision praise the unanimous nature of the decision and the ability for churches to make their own employment decisions based on their religious beliefs.
The case stemmed from a decision by a Michigan church to fire a female teacher who became ill with narcolepsy. The teacher contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who filed suit against the church for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Source: ABC News “Supreme Court Backs Church in Landmark Religious Liberty Case,” Ariane de Vogue, 1/11/2012