Can Churches Discriminate on the Basis of Religion?
Oddly enough, that's the issue in a case headed to SCOTUS next Wednesday, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC. The case involves a small Lutheran Church near Detroit that got sued by the EEOC for firing one of its religion teachers . . . for violating church teachings.
The legal issue is the scope of the so-called “ministerial exception,” which is a long-standing doctrine that exempts religious organizations from employment-discrimination laws, at least with respect to "ministerial employees." There was some thought that the administration would argue that the exception should not apply in this case because the teacher wasn't "ministerial" (she also taught secular subjects). But no, the Obama DOJ is arguing that the "ministerial exception" shouldn’t exist at all.
The potential consequences of the Obama/Holder position are staggering: will the EEOC sue to force the Catholic Church to ordain women? Will Obama's old friend Rev. Wright be forced to accept Jewish altarboys? You get the idea. There's a great op-ed by Hannah C. Smith of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who represents the church in the Hosanna-Tabor case, spelling out the issues in greater detail. (HT: Ed Whelan, over at NRO Bench Memos).