A interesting call

The Supremes recently made an interesting 9-0 decision. Church fires a “called” female teacher for filing an ADA suit instead of settling things within the church (presumably via the Pauline reasoning of 1 Cor 6). SCOTUS said this was ok because the 1st amendment keeps government from meddling with how churches choose their ‘ministers.’

Religious institutions that employ teachers typically have a parallel employment clause to the ‘at-will’ status of secular employers, which allows firing for pretty much any reason if the private or public life of the employee doesn’t meet the institution’s standards. Under this decision – which more or less maintains the status quo – federal employment laws like the ADA are pretty powerless to affect this situation, just as they tend to be useless for non-federal secular employees that have no choice but ‘at-will’ employment.

I’m a big fan of the 1st amendment and religious freedom. And I have to grudgingly admit that this decision was probably right on the law. But it does strike me as ironic. A secular employer would just state some other reason for firing her and dodge the ADA suit that way; a church, on the other hand, doesn’t need to dissemble. Furthermore, it’s another gentle reminder about the power imbalance between employers and employees – especially replaceable employees.

One thought on “A interesting call

  1. Interesting post, Mike. I agree with all your reasoning here. This situation also relates to legal questions regarding freedom of association. I think there was a case recently (my memory is pretty foggy here, so details may be off) where a Christian campus organization was sued by an atheist who wanted to hold some position in the organization (treasurer or something). If I remember right (and I might be wrong, too lazy to go look it up), the court found that the Christian organization couldn’t disqualify an applicant on the grounds that they were not a Christian. That’s kind of scary, I think; although (again, unsure) that decision may have been reversed by a higher court.

    Anyway, you’re right that the most interesting thing is how the religious association doesn’t need to make excuses for the firing while the secular employer “dissembles.” Why do you think that is? I mean, I understand the legal reasons, but there must be some moral reasons undergirding the law on those issues.

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