U.S. Supreme Court
Supreme Court Considers Whether Fired Lutheran Teacher May Sue for Retaliation
Posted Oct 6, 2011 8:33 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Justice Antonin Scalia took a hard line as the U.S. Supreme Court considered Wednesday whether a Lutheran school teacher may bring a retaliation suit for her firing.
The teacher, Cheryl Perich, had gone on disability leave for narcolepsy and objected when the church school in Redford, Mich., said it would not rehire her in the middle of the school year. She threatened a lawsuit and was fired.
Scalia said repeatedly in oral arguments that the school was protected from suit, the Washington Post reports. “It’s none of the business of the government to decide what the substantial interest of the church is,” he said.
Other justices struggled with the proper line between church and state. At issue is the reach of the ministerial exception, which bars job bias suits involving ministers and priests, report the National Law Journal and the New York Times. Justices struggled to define the word “minister” and appeared troubled that answering the question would interfere with religious rights.
The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the school district was not protected from suit because Perich spent most of her time on secular duties.
The case is Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.