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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Lutheran School Teacher Can Sue for Retaliation

Posted Mar 28, 2011 9:42 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Corrected: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a Lutheran elementary school can be sued for retaliation by a narcoleptic teacher who wanted to return to work after a disability leave.

The religious school in Redford, Mich., fired teacher Cheryl Perich for insubordination after she reported for work even though administrators said they would not rehire her in the middle of the school year, according to the petition for certiorari (PDF posted by SCOTUSblog). The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the school district was not protected from suit, despite First Amendment protection as a religious organization, because Perich spent most of her time on secular duties.

The federal appeals courts are split on the issue. They agree that the establishment clause protects religious organizations from employment suits filed by pastors, priests and rabbis, the cert petition says. But the courts are evenly divided over whether this “ministerial exception” also protects churches from suits filed by other employees.

The case is Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. SCOTUSblog and the Christian Post have background on the case.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the school, has more information at its website.

Corrected at 2:20 p.m. to indicate the school is located in Redford, Mich.

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