Supreme Court upholds Christian schools' religious liberty

Supreme Court upholds Christian schools' religious liberty

January 14th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

With alarming frequency, our nation's courts have twisted the meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution to deny -- rather than guarantee -- religious liberty.

That has been evident in court-ordered removals of voluntarily placed religious symbols from the public square, and even in a federal court ruling that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are "unconstitutional."

But the U.S. Supreme Court has now properly upheld the right of churches and religious schools to select their ministers and other religious workers according to the institutions' beliefs, without fear of being sued for discrimination.

At issue was a Lutheran school in Michigan. A teacher there had threatened to sue after being fired in a disability dispute. According to the school, that threat violated the Christian school's teaching that disputes should be settled within the church, not through lawsuits.

Whether one agrees with the school's views on where disputes should be resolved is beside the point. A religious institution has a fundamental right to employ people who uphold its principles.

In most cases, for example, it would be wrong for a private company or organization to refuse to hire women. But if, say, a church teaches that pastors must be male, then it would be outrageous if the church were punished through a discrimination lawsuit for refusing to appoint female pastors. That would force the church to deny its beliefs and would violate the First Amendment's guarantee of the right of "free exercise" of religion.

The Supreme Court was appropriately unanimous in its decision upholding the principle that religious organizations -- not courts -- have the right to set the criteria for hiring their religious workers.