February 12, 2020
AMICUS BRIEF FILED IN SUPPORT OF
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE SCHOOL
Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru
United States Supreme Court
WASHINGTON, DC — Independent Women’s Law Center has filed an amicus brief in support of Our Lady of Guadalupe School, arguing that the First Amendment’s religion clauses bar employment discrimination claims by employees against their religious employers where the employee carries out important religious functions.
In 2012 the United States Supreme Court issued an unanimous decision outlining the “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination claims against religious employers. This case involves the scope of that exception and, specifically, whether teachers at a Catholic school are properly defined as ministers of the faith.
The brief argues that teachers at religious schools perform a vital role in advancing the school’s religious mission. This is true whether the teachers are ordained ministers of the faith or lay people and irrespective of whether they teach courses in religion or math. Because the objective of a religious school is to inculcate religious values, all teachers at these schools are “ministers” within the meaning of the “ministerial exception.”
Erin M. Hawley, Senior Legal Fellow at Independent Women’s Law Center, issued the following statement: “The ‘ministerial exception’ protects a religious group’s right to shape its own faith and mission through hiring practices and bars federal and state courts from interfering with the hiring and retention policies and practices of religious employers. Teachers at religious schools play a critical role in transmitting the faith to the next generation and are, therefore, properly categorized as ‘ministers’ within the exception outline by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Because a narrow interpretation of the ministerial exception will interfere with the ability of parents to raise their children with a distinctly religious education, Independent Women’s Law Center urges the Supreme Court to reverse the 9th Circuit’s decision denying the Catholic elementary school the right to choose its own ministers without government interference.
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