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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Work for a Church or Religious School? You May Have No Civil Rights

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled last Wednesday on the so-called "ministerial exemption" to employment discrimination laws on Wednesday, finding that churches are allowed to discriminate. The exemption is something you won't find in Title VII or other discrimination laws, but is purely a creation of the courts.
While Title VII does have a limited exemption for religious organizations, it is narrow:
This subchapter shall not apply to a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.
The Americans With Disabilities Act has a similar exemption:
 
Religious entities:
(1) In general
This subchapter shall not prohibit a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society from giving preference in employment to individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.
(2) Religious tenets requirement
Under this subchapter, a religious organization may require that all applicants and employees conform to the religious tenets of such organization.
In other words, Congress said that religious organizations can prefer to hire members of their own religion and comply with religious rules. That's it.

The Supreme Court broadened all religious organizations' rights to discriminate, saying . . . read more here in The Huffington Post.

3 comments:

  1. I find an interesting contrast between this case (and its future progeny) and those involving government funding of religious institutions that discriminate based on religious belief, i.e. the recent Illinois court battle over the funding of Catholic Charities, which refused to change its rules on gay adoption. Both lines of cases essentially pit Title VII/state anti-discrimination laws against the First Amendment Rights of religious organizations, however, the notion of a "religious exception" discussed above (and presumably based on those First Amendment Rights) doesn't seem to hold sway when taxpayer money becomes involved (see State of Illinois v. CC).

    As the General Counsel for the U.S. Council of Bishops stated: “It’s true that the church doesn’t have a First Amendment right to have a government contract,’’ he said, “but it does have a First Amendment right not to be excluded from a contract based on its religious beliefs.’’ I tend to agree, and this Title VII religious exception seems to lend support. Thoughts?

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  2. I'd keep it simple. Government shouldn't fund churches. Period. They're already tax-exempt. Taxpayers shouldn't have to also pay their hard-earned money to church organizations.

    Further, if an organization wants government funding, it should agree not to discriminate. If it wants the money, it will take the deal. If not, it can get money that doesn't come out of taxpayers' pockets. It's not unusual for any government contractor to have to agree to non-discrimination provisions and other restrictions. Why should charity be any different?

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  3. If congress states that a religious organizations can prefer to hire members of their own religion and comply with religious rules, how they find it logical in contrast of a country where we all are same and we should respect all religion. If a person does not get hired just because he is not of that particular religion how any one can expect that he will have the same feeling for that particular religion.
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