On Wednesday, the Supreme Court affirmed that religious schools can decide who teaches their faith.
This is an important victory for all religious schools!
While it may seem obvious that religious schools should be able to determine who to employ as a teacher, opponents of religious freedom have long advocated for the government to have the right to interfere in these decisions.
The Court’s ruling in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru made it clear that the First Amendment prevents the government from meddling with a religious groups’ employment decisions about who furthers its religious mission. Alliance Defending Freedom filed an amicus brief in this case on behalf of Christian schools and school associations.
This ruling affirms the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, in which the Court recognized that religious organizations have autonomy to make employment decisions about their ministers.
In addition to affirming the 2012 ruling, the Supreme Court provided clarity on who is considered a “minister.” In the past, lower courts have disagreed on the analysis, suggesting specific religious credentials or a ministerial title is needed to be considered a minister. But the job functions of religious school teachers is what matters—they provide faith-based learning, model their beliefs to students, train students to live the faith, and more.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court rightly concluded that any definition of a minister should be primarily based on the religious functions an employee is asked to perform as defined by those qualified to make that judgment: the religious groups who know their faith best.
The bottom line is that religious schools have the freedom decide who teaches the faith to their students. We are thankful this ruling continues to allow religious groups to be free to select their priests, rabbis, ministers, and other religious leaders free from government interference.