Resurrecting Free Exercise in Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church & School V. EEOC

By Williams, Elliott | Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview

Resurrecting Free Exercise in Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church & School V. EEOC


Williams, Elliott, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy


Since the rise of federal nondiscrimination laws, every federal court of appeals has recognized a "ministerial exception" that protects some religious organizations from certain kinds of suits by employees. (1) Beyond that baseline, appellate opinions have diverged as to whether the exception protects only churches or whether it extends to other kinds of religious organizations, (2) whether it applies to most employees of religious organizations or only a few, (3) and whether the exception bars all employment-related suits or only discrimination suits. (4) Last term, in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, the Supreme Court unanimously held that the First Amendment provides a ministerial exception that protects religious schools from retaliatory firing suits under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (5) By holding that the employment decisions of the religious school were shielded by both Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, (6) this decision limited the Court's earlier holding in Employment Division v. Smith, (7) and expanded the scope of religious liberty under the Free Exercise Clause.

Respondent Cheryl Perich was a "called" (as opposed to "lay") teacher at Hosanna-Tabor, a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod church and school. (8) After five years of teaching at the school, she became ill with narcolepsy and began the 2004-2005 school year on disability leave. (9) In January 2005 Perich informed the school principal that she would be able to return to work the next month. (10) The principal replied that Perich's position was filled for the remainder of the school year. (11) Three days later, the Hosanna-Tabor congregation extended a "peaceful release" to Perich in return for her resignation. (12) Perich, however, refused to resign. (13) As soon as her doctor authorized Perich to return to work, she appeared at the school and demanded documentation of her willingness to work. (14) When the principal called Perich at home that afternoon and said that she might be fired, Perich answered that she was planning to sue. (15) The Hosanna-Tabor congregation rescinded Perich's call on April 10, 2005. (16) Perich then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). (17) The EEOC sued Hosanna-Tabor for firing Perich because she had threatened to bring suit, and Perich intervened as a plaintiff. (18) She sought reinstatement, backpay, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, and injunctive relief. (19)

The district court granted summary judgment to Hosanna-Tabor: "Because Perich was a ministerial employee of Hosanna-Tabor, this Court can inquire no further into her claims of retaliation." (20) The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded on the grounds that Perich's primary duties were secular. (21) After noting that "Perich spent approximately six hours and fifteen minutes of her seven hour day teaching secular subjects," (22) the court reasoned that under the "governing primary duties analysis[, which] requires a court to objectively examine an employee's actual job function, not her title, in determining whether she is properly classified as a minister[,].... it is clear ... that Perich's primary duties were secular." (23)

The Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed. (24) Writing for a unanimous Court, Chief Justice Roberts held that the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment create a "ministerial exception" and that Hosanna-Tabor's decision to fire Perich fell within that exception. (25)

The Court's opinion contextualizes the First Amendment in the history of struggles between church and state authorities concerning the election of church officers. Although Magna Carta guaranteed that "the English church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished and its liberties unimpaired," (26) as the Court observes, "[t]hat freedom in many cases may have been more theoretical than real." (27) For instance, in 1534, Parliament titled the English monarch Supreme Head of the Church of England and gave it the authority to appoint bishops. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Resurrecting Free Exercise in Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church & School V. EEOC
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.