Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Supreme Court delivers a knockout punch to the White House (Ministerial Exemption)

By Peter Johnson Jr. News) Wednesday the United States Supreme Court delivered a knockout blow to the White House in the cause of religious liberty.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a unanimous court swatted away the government’s claim that the Lutheran Church did not have the right to fire a “minister of religion” who, after six years of Lutheran religious training had been commissioned as a minister, upon election by her congregation.

The fired minister -- who also taught secular subjects -- claimed discrimination in employment. The Obama administration, always looking for opportunities to undermine the bedrock of First Amendment religious liberty, eagerly agreed.

There was just one big problem standing in the way of the government's plan: the U.S. Constitution. For a long time American courts have recognized the existence of a "ministerial exemption" which keeps government’s hands off the employment relationship between a religious institution and its ministers or clergy.

Here, in this case, the Department of Justice had the nerve to not only challenge the exemption’s application but also its very existence.

But, Chief Justice Roberts pushed back hard, telling the government essentially to butt out:

“Requiring a church to accept or retain an unwanted minister, or punishing a church for failing to do so, intrudes upon more than a mere employment decision. Such action interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs. By imposing an unwanted minister, the state infringes the free exercise clause, which protects a religious group’s right to shape its own faith and mission through its appointments. According the state the power to determine which individuals will minister to the faithful also violates the establishment clause, which prohibits government involvement in such ecclesiastical decisions.”

Citing well-known legal precedent dating as far back as Reconstruction, the court made it clear that it is not up to the government to contradict a faith’s determination as to who should -- and should not -- be performing religious functions...

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