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SCOTUS Keeps Gov't Out of Religious Groups' Employment Decisions

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The United States Supreme Court ruled Wednesday to throw out employment discrimination lawsuits from former Catholic school teachers.

SCOTUS ruled 7-2 that the former teachers’ employment discrimination suits are barred by “ministerial exception.”

Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion of the court.

In his opinion, Alito wrote that under the “ministerial exception,” courts must “stay out of employment disputes involving those holding certain important positions with churches and other religious institutions” in order to guarantee religious independence.

“It is instructive to consider why a church’s independence on matters ‘of faith and doctrine’ requires the authority to select, supervise, and if necessary, remove a minister without interference by secular authorities,” Alito wrote.

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“The ministerial exception was recognized to preserve a church’s independent authority in such matters.”

The case involved two elementary school teachers at Catholic schools within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles: Agnes Morrissey-Berru, who taught at Our Lady of Guadalupe School, and Kristen Biel, who taught at St. James School and died last year.

Morrissey-Berru said that her school had discriminated against her based on age, while Biel said that her school discharged her after she requested a leave of absence to get breast cancer treatment.

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“The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission,” according to the majority opinion.

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