Photo: Supreme Court to Decide on Key Catholic church Issue
On Oct. 5, 2011, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that could help determine how much latitude religious organizations have in making employment decisions about clergy and others who perform religious duties. The case centers on a legal doctrine known as the “ministerial exception.”
The Supreme Court has never expressly ruled on the doctrine, but judges in lower federal courts have used it to exempt religious organizations from anti-discrimination laws and other statutes that regulate how employers treat their workers.
These decisions have emphasized that courts should not intervene in employment matters when doing so would require them to evaluate the qualifications or performance of employees who carry out religious functions, such as preaching or leading worship. In Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the Supreme Court will decide whether a teacher who devoted part of her day to religion duties should be considered a ministerial employee in a wrongful dismissal suit.
The outcome of the case could have an affect on lawsuits brought by women who claim they are discriminated against by the church since they are not allowed to be priests. The lawsuit can also open the door for gay males to file suit for being barred from getting employment in religious education. Overall any person or persons who feels they are being discriminated against by the church would be able to sue them for damages and mandate they change their practices.