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Supreme Court Rules Government Can't Tell Religious Schools Who to Hire and Fire

07-08-2020
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Intercessors in front of the Supreme Court
Intercessors in front of the Supreme Court

ABOVE: Emilie Kao, director of The Heritage Foundation's Devos Center for Religion and Civil Society appeared on the Wednesday edition of CBN News' Faith Nation to talk about how today's Supreme Court decision was a victory for religious freedom. Newswatch is seen weeknights on the CBN News Channel

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the First Amendment rights of two Catholic schools, saying the religious institutions have the final say over their own employment decisions.

The court ruled 7-2, upholding religious freedom in the two cases under review: Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James Catholic School v. Biel. 

Justice Alito wrote for the Court upholding the rights of religious schools: "The First Amendment protects the right of religious institutions 'to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.'"  

He added, "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. Judicial review of the way in which religious schools discharge those responsibilities would undermine the independence of religious institutions in a way that the First Amendment does not tolerate." 

Adrian Alarcon, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Catholic Schools, agreed saying, "Religious schools play an integral role in passing the faith to the next generation of believers. We are grateful that the Supreme Court recognized faith groups must be free to make their own decisions about who should be entrusted with these essential duties."

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represented the Catholic schools in the case.

"Today is a huge win for religious schools of all faith traditions," said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, who argued the case to the Court. "The last thing government officials should do is decide who is authorized to teach Catholicism to Catholics or Judaism to Jews. We are glad the Court has resoundingly reaffirmed that churches and synagogues, not government, control who teaches kids about God." 

New 'Secular Sexual Orthodoxy' Will Still Undermine Religious Freedom

Dr. Russell Moore from the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said this newly expanded ministerial exception sets a precedent for the lower courts.
  
"We really do have a coherent philosophy here that's articulated, that's rooted in the First Amendment, in the Constitution, in legislation like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act - so I think the constitutional policy here is very clear," he said.

But questions remain because of an earlier case this session in which the court redefined sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
  
Emilie Kao with the Heritage Foundation said, "The court just went ahead and redefined sex discrimination and that's going to create a secular sexual orthodoxy that religious institutions and religious individuals will probably have to litigate in the courts for many years to come."

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