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.