Opinions & Commentaries

On this appeal our only inquiry is whether the District Court of the Territory had jurisdiction of the offence charged in the indictment of which the defendant was found guilty. If it had jurisdiction, we can go no farther. We cannot look into any alleged errors in its rulings on the trial of the defendant. The writ of habeas corpus cannot be turned into a writ of error to review the action of that court. Nor can we inquire whether the evidence established the fact alleged, that the defendant was a member of an order or organization known as the Mormon Church, called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or the fact that the order or organization taught and counselled its members and devotees to commit the crimes of bigamy and polygamy as duties arising from membership therein. On this hearing we can only consider whether, these allegations being taken as true, an offence was committed of which the territorial court had jurisdiction to try the defendant. And on this point there can be no serious discussion or difference of opinion. Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries. They are crimes by the laws of the United States, and they are crimes by the laws of Idaho. They tend to destroy the purity of the marriage relation, to disturb the peace of families, to degrade woman and to debase man. Few crimes are more pernicious to the best interests of society and receive more general or more deserved punishment. To extend exemption from punishment for such crimes would be to shock the moral judgment of the community. To call their *342 advocacy a tenet of religion is to offend the common sense of mankind. If they are crimes, then to teach, advise and counsel their practice is to aid in their commission, and such teaching and counselling are themselves criminal and proper subjects of punishment, as aiding and abetting crime are in all other cases.

READ MORE


Passing the various objections made to the maintenance of this suit on account of an alleged defect of parties, and also in regard to the character in which the complainant sues, merely that of a citizen and taxpayer of the United States and a resident of the District of Columbia, we come to the main question as to the validity of the agreement between the Commissioners of the District and the directors of the hospital, founded upon the appropriation contained in the act of Congress, the contention being that the agreement if carried out would result in an appropriation by Congress of money to a religious society, thereby violating the constitutional provision which forbids Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion. Art. I of the Amendments to Constitution.

READ MORE


A New Jersey statute authorizes its local school districts to make rules and contracts for the transportation of children to and from schools.[1] The appellee, a township board of education, acting pursuant to this statute, authorized reimbursement to parents of money expended by them for the bus transportation of their children on regular busses operated by the public transportation system. Part of this money was for the payment of transportation of some children in the community to Catholic parochial schools. These church schools give their students, in addition to secular education, regular religious instruction conforming to the religious tenets and modes of worship of the Catholic Faith. The superintendent of these schools is a Catholic priest.

READ MORE


The issues in this case concern the constitutional validity of Maryland criminal statutes,[1] commonly known as Sunday Closing Laws or Sunday Blue Laws. These statutes, with exceptions to be noted hereafter, generally proscribe all labor, business and other commercial activities on Sunday. The questions presented are whether the classifications within the statutes bring about a denial of equal protection of the law, whether the laws are so vague as to fail to give reasonable notice of the forbidden conduct and therefore violate due process, and whether the statutes are laws respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

READ MORE


The primary questions presented in this case are whether a Pennsylvania statute enacted in 1959[1] which *584 makes unlawful the Sunday retail sale of certain commodities, imposing a fine of up to one hundred dollars for the first offense, is violative of the constitutional guarantees of equal protection of the laws and religious freedom.

READ MORE


The respondent Board of Education of Union Free School District No. 9, New Hyde Park, New York, acting in its official capacity under state law, directed the School District's principal to cause the following prayer to be said aloud by each class in the presence of a teacher at the beginning of each school day:

READ MORE


371 U.S. 218 (1962) ARLAN’S DEPARTMENT STORE OF LOUISVILLE, INC., ET AL. v. KENTUCKY. No. 503. Supreme Court of United States. Decided December 17, 1962. APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF KENTUCKY. James E. Thornberry and Edward M. Post for appellants. John B. Breckinridge, Attorney General of Kentucky, Holland N. McTyeire, Assistant Attorney General, and Chas. E. Keller for appellee. PER CURIAM. The motion to dismiss is granted and the appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question. MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting. This is a criminal prosecution of the owners of three retail stores for employing persons […]

READ MORE


Once again we are called upon to consider the scope of the provision of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ." These companion cases present the issues in the context of state action requiring that schools begin each day with readings from the Bible. While raising the basic questions under slightly different factual situations, the cases permit of joint treatment. In light of the history of the First Amendment and of our cases interpreting and applying its requirements, we hold that the practices at issue and the laws requiring them are unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause, as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.

READ MORE


377 U.S. 402 (1964) CHAMBERLIN ET AL. v. DADE COUNTY BOARD OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION ET AL. No. 939. Supreme Court of United States. Decided June 1, 1964. APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA. Leo Pfeffer and Howard W. Dixon for appellants. George C. Bolles for appellees. PER CURIAM. The motion to use the record in No. 520, October Term 1962, is granted. The judgment of the Florida Supreme Court is reversed with respect to the issues of the constitutionality of prayer, and of devotional Bible reading pursuant to a Florida statute, Fla. Stat. (1961) § 231.09, in the public […]

READ MORE


I.

This appeal challenges the constitutionality of the "anti-evolution" statute which the State of Arkansas adopted in 1928 to prohibit the teaching in its public schools and universities of the theory that man evolved from other species of life. The statute was a product of the upsurge of "fundamentalist" religious fervor of the twenties. The Arkansas statute was an adaptation of the famous Tennessee "monkey law" which that State adopted in 1925.[1] The constitutionality of the Tennessee law was upheld by the Tennessee Supreme Court in the celebrated Scopes case in 1927.[2]The Arkansas law makes it unlawful for a teacher in any state-supported school or university "to teach the *99 theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals," or "to adopt or use in any such institution a textbook that teaches" this theory. Violation is a misdemeanor and subjects the violator to dismissal from his position.[3]The present case concerns the teaching of biology in a high school in Little Rock. According to the testimony, until the events here in litigation, the official textbook furnished for the high school biology course did not have a section on the Darwinian Theory. Then, for the academic year 1965-1966, the school administration, on recommendation of the teachers of biology in the school system, adopted and prescribed a textbook which contained a chapter setting forth "the theory about the origin . . . of man from a lower form of animal."*100 Susan Epperson, a young woman who graduated from Arkansas' school system and then obtained her master's degree in zoology at the University of Illinois, was employed by the Little Rock school system in the fall of 1964 to teach 10th grade biology at Central High School. At the start of the next academic year, 1965, she was confronted by the new textbook (which one surmises from the record was not unwelcome to her). She faced at least a literal dilemma because she was supposed to use the new textbook for classroom instruction and presumably to teach the statutorily condemned chapter; but to do so would be a criminal offense and subject her to dismissal.

READ MORE


Appellant, owner of real estate in Richmond County, New York, sought an injunction in the New York courts to prevent the New York City Tax Commission from granting property tax exemptions to religious organizations for religious properties used solely for religious worship. The exemption from state taxes is authorized by Art. 16, § 1, of the New York Constitution, which provides in relevant part:

READ MORE


On June 28, 1971, this Court handed down Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U. S. 602, in which Pennsylvania's "Nonpublic Elementary and Secondary Education Act" was held unconstitutional as violative of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That law authorized the State to reimburse nonpublic, sectarian schools for their expenditures on teachers' salaries, textbooks, and instructional materials used in specified "secular" courses. *827 The Court's ruling was premised on its determination that the restrictions and state supervision required to guarantee that the specified aid would benefit only the nonreligious activities of the schools would foster "excessive entanglement" between government and religion. Id., at 620-622.

READ MORE


In April of 1972 a three-judge United States District Court for the Southern District of New York declared unconstitutional New York's Mandated Services Act, 1970 N. Y. Laws, *127 ch. 138, which authorized fixed payments to nonpublic schools as reimbursement for the cost of certain recordkeeping and testing services required by state law. Committee for Public Education & Religious Liberty v. Levitt, 342 F. Supp. 439. The court's order permanently enjoined any payments under the Act, including reimbursement for expenses that schools had already incurred in the last half of the 1971-1972 school year.[1] This Court subsequently affirmed that judgment. Levitt v. Committee for Public Education, 413 U. S. 472.

READ MORE


449 U.S. 39 (1980) STONE ET AL. v. GRAHAM, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION OF KENTUCKY. No. 80-321. Supreme Court of United States. Decided November 17, 1980. ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF KENTUCKY. PER CURIAM. A Kentucky statute requires the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments, purchased with private contributions, on the wall of each public classroom in the State.[1] Petitioners, *40 claiming that this statute violates the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment,[2] sought an injunction against its enforcement. The state trial court upheld the statute, finding that its […]

READ MORE


The University of Missouri-Kansas City was founded in 1929, the university has an enrollment of approximately 14,000 students. The school allows over 100 recognized non-religious student groups to meet on its campus. All students pay a $41 activity fee (1978-1979) per semester to support this privilege. UMKC is a part of the University of Missouri system, which is governed by the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri. Defendant Gary E. Widmar is a member of the Board of Curators. Cornerstone is a fundamentalist evangelical Christian student-led organization. The group is registered with the university and met on campus from 1973 to 1977. Plaintiffs were all active members of the organization at the time this action was first filed. The parties disagree about whether allowing Cornerstone to have access to university facilities would be a government endorsement of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. The Establishment Clause prohibits government speech endorsing religion while private speech in support of religion is protected by the Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses. With respect to equal access to limited public forums for religious groups, the Supreme Court typically finds no violation of the Establishment Clause where there is little concern that the public would perceive an endorsement of religion by the government entity and where any benefit to religion is merely incidental.

READ MORE


The principal question presented by this appeal is whether a Minnesota statute, imposing certain registration and reporting requirements upon only those religious organizations that solicit more than fifty per cent of their funds from nonmembers, discriminates against such organizations in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.[1]

READ MORE


The question presented by this appeal is whether a Massachusetts statute, which vests in the governing bodies of churches and schools the power effectively to veto applications for liquor licenses within a 500-foot radius of the church or school, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment or the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

READ MORE


The question presented is whether the Nebraska Legislature's practice of opening each legislative day with a prayer by a chaplain paid by the State violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

READ MORE


We granted certiorari to decide whether the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits a municipality *671 from including a creche, or Nativity scene, in its annual Christmas display.

READ MORE


471 U.S. 83 (1985) BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE VILLAGE OF SCARSDALE ET AL. v. McCREARY ET AL. No. 84-277. Supreme Court of United States. Argued February 20, 1985 Decided March 27, 1985 CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT Marvin E. Frankel argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs was Marc D. Stern. Marvin Schwartz argued the cause for respondents and filed a brief for respondents Scarsdale Creche Committee et al. Vincent K. Gilmore filed a brief for respondents McCreary et al.[*] PER CURIAM. The judgment is affirmed by an equally […]

READ MORE


We granted certiorari to decide whether a state statute that provides employees with the absolute right not to work *705 on their chosen Sabbath violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

READ MORE


This case raises an important question of federal appellate jurisdiction that was not considered by the Court of Appeals: Whether one member of a School Board has standing to appeal from a declaratory judgment against the Board. We conclude that although the School Board itself had a sufficient stake in the outcome of the litigation to appeal, an individual Board member cannot invoke the Board's interest in the case to confer standing upon himself.

READ MORE


Section 702 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 255, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-1, exempts religious organizations from Title VII's prohibition against discrimination in employment on the basis of religion.[1] The question presented *330 is whether applying the § 702 exemption to the secular nonprofit activities of religious organizations violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The District Court held that it does, and these cases are here on direct appeal pursuant to 28 U. S. C. § 1252.[2] We reverse.

READ MORE


This litigation involves a challenge to a federal grant program that provides funding for services relating to adolescent sexuality and pregnancy. Considering the federal statute both "on its face" and "as applied," the District Court ruled that the statute violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment insofar as it provided for the involvement of religious organizations in the federally funded programs. We conclude, however, that the statute is not unconstitutional on its face, and that a determination of whether any of the grants made pursuant to the statute violate the Establishment Clause requires further proceedings in the District Court.

READ MORE


489 U.S. 1 (1989) TEXAS MONTHLY, INC. v. BULLOCK, COMPTROLLER OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS OF STATE OF TEXAS, ET AL. No. 87-1245. Supreme Court of United States. Argued November 1, 1988 Decided February 21, 1989 APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, THIRD DISTRICT *4 Roger James George, Jr., argued the cause for appellant, With him on the briefs were John M. Harmon and Pamel Stanton Baron. Harriet D. Burke, Assistant Attorney General of Texas argued the cause for appellees. With her on the brief were *5 Jim Mattox, Attorney General, Mary F. Keller, First Assistant Attorney General, and Lou […]

READ MORE


492 U.S. 573 (1989) COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY ET AL. v. AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, GREATER PITTSBURGH CHAPTER, ET AL. No. 87-2050. Supreme Court of United States. Argued February 22, 1989 Decided July 3, 1989[*] CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT *577 Peter Buscemi argued the cause for petitioners in Nos. 87-2050 and 88-96. With him on the briefs were George M. Janocsko, Robert L. McTiernan, D. R. Pellegrini, and George *578 R. Specter. Nathan Lewin argued the cause for petitioner in No. 88-90. With him on the briefs was Charles H. Saul. Roslyn M. […]

READ MORE


Principals of public middle and high schools in Providence, Rhode Island, were permitted to invite members of the clergy to give invocations and benedictions at their schools' graduation ceremonies. Petitioner Lee, a middle school principal, invited a rabbi to offer such prayers at the graduation ceremony for Deborah Weisman's class, gave the rabbi a pamphlet containing guidelines for the composition of public prayers at civic ceremonies, and advised him that the prayers should be nonsectarian. Shortly before the ceremony, the District Court denied the motion of respondent Weisman, Deborah's father, for a temporary restraining order to prohibit school officials from including the prayers in the ceremony. Deborah and her family attended the ceremony, and the prayers were recited. Subsequently, Weisman sought a permanent injunction barring Lee and other petitioners, various Providence public school officials, from inviting clergy to deliver invocations and benedictions at future graduations.

READ MORE


Ohio law maked Capitol Square, the statehouse plaza in Columbus, a forum for discussion of public questions and for public activities, and gave petitioner Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (Board) responsibility for regulating access to the square. To use the square, a group must simply fill out an official application form and meet several speechneutral criteria. After the Board denied, on Establishment Clause grounds, the application of respondent Ku Klux Klan to place an unattended cross on the square during the 1993 Christmas season, the Klan filed this suit. The District Court entered an injunction requiring issuance of the requested permit, and the Board permitted the Klan to erect its cross. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment, adding to a conflict among the Courts of Appeals as to whether a private, unattended display of a religious symbol in a public forum violates the Establishment Clause.

READ MORE


The University of Virginia assesses each full-time student a $14 per semester activities fee. Those fees are provided to a Student Activities Fund that, among other things, pays off-campus businesses to print publications prepared by 15 "student news, information, opinion, entertainment, or academic communications media groups." The Fund denied a request from students who published a Christian magazine. In doing so, the Fund relied on its guidelines, which do not permit the funding of religious activities. The trial court and appellate court, for slightly different reasons, held that the Fund's denial did not constitute unconstitutional discrimination against the Christian magazine. A public university is under no obligation to provide benefits or facilities to student groups. Once it chooses to do so, however, it may not discriminate among the recipients of those benefits based upon the viewpoint of their speech. Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School Dist., 508 U.S. 384 (1993). At the same time, a public university, like all other agencies of the government, may not impose a tax or fee in order to support religious activity. Roemer v. Board of Public Works of Md., 426 U.S. 736 (1976).

READ MORE


Prior to 1995, the Santa Fe High School student who occupied the school's elective office of student council chaplain delivered a prayer over the public address system before each varsity football game for the entire season. This practice, along with others, was challenged in District Court as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. While these proceedings were pending in the District Court, the school district adopted a different policy that permits, but does not require, prayer initiated and led by a student at all home games. The District Court entered an order modifying that policy to permit only nonsectarian, nonproselytizing prayer. The Court of Appeals held that, even as modified by the District Court, the football prayer policy was invalid. We granted the school district's petition for certiorari to review that holding.

READ MORE


About 500 students attend the Milford Central School (Milford, N.Y.), which houses grades K-12. The Child Evangelism Fellowship, a non-sectarian, Christian missionary organization, sponsors some 4,400 Good News clubs in the United States for children ages 6 to 12. The 'tender age' of the children in question is central to the Court's analysis of the case. Rev. Stephen Fournier and his wife lead the Good News Club of Milford; it has approximately 25 members. New York state allows local school boards to adopt their own regulations for community use of school property. The Milford school district's policy is stated in a handbook: (1) School facilities "may be used by district residents for holding social, civic and recreational meetings and entertainment events and other uses pertaining to the welfare of the community …" (2) "School premises shall not be used by any individual or organization for religious purposes." In 1996 the Good News Club of Milford, for reasons not relevant to the case, seeks a new place in which to conduct its meetings. It submits a 'District Use of Facilities Request' asking to use the school as a meeting place. An interim superintendent refuses access, finding that the Good News Club's meetings would be "the equivalent of religious worship … rather than the expression of religious views or values on a secular subject." After an attorney raises the issue that denial of access to the Good News Club while access is allowed to the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and the 4-H Club may violate the club's rights, school official solicit additional information about the meetings of the club, reconsider the request for facility access, and again deny access to the club. Both parties agreed that the school district created a limited public forum by issuing its community use policy for school facilities. A government-operated limited public forum is not required to and does not allow individuals to engage in all types of speech. Under Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819 (1995), content-based discrimination is allowed in a limited public forum so long as the restricted speech falls outside the purpose of the limited forum. Viewpoint-based discrimination, however, is impermissible if the speech in question falls within the purpose of the limited forum. Thus, the government may restrict speech within the limited public forum if the restriction is not a viewpoint-based limitation and if the restriction is reasonable in light of the forum's purpose. The parties disagree, however, about whether club access would be a government endorsement of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. The clause prohibits government speech endorsing religion while private speech in support of religion is protected by the Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses. With respect to equal access to limited public forums for religious groups, the Supreme Court typically finds no violation of the Establishment Clause where there is little concern that the public would perceive an endorsement of religion by the government entity and where any benefit to religion is merely incidental. In 1997 the Good News Club files in federal district court and offers arguments related to freedom of speech, equal protection and religious freedom under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The district court holds in summary judgment for the Milford Central School. In 2000 Hearing an appeal limited to the First Amendment issue claim, the 2nd Circuit panel (2-1) affirms the district court's dismissal of the free speech claim. The appellate court finds that the school was not discriminating between viewpoints but rather had excluded the club because the content of its meetings consisted of "religious instruction and prayer" — a permissible viewpoint-neutral reason. The Supreme Court grants the petition for cert. on October 10.

READ MORE


Section 3 of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA or Act), 114 Stat. 804, 42 U. S. C. § 2000cc-1(a)(1)-(2), provides in part: "No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution," unless the burden furthers "a compelling governmental interest," and does so by "the least restrictive means." Plaintiffs below, petitioners here, are current and former inmates of institutions operated by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and assert that they are adherents of "nonmainstream" religions: the Satanist, Wicca, and Asatru religions, and the Church of Jesus Christ Christian.[1] They complain that Ohio prison officials (respondents here), in violation of RLUIPA, have failed to accommodate their religious exercise

READ MORE


545 U.S. 677 (2005) VAN ORDEN v. PERRY, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS GOVERNOR OF TEXAS AND CHAIRMAN, STATE PRESERVATION BOARD, ET AL. No. 03-1500. Supreme Court of United States. Argued March 2, 2005. Decided June 27, 2005. *679 Erwin Chemerinsky argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Mark Rosenbaum and Paul Hoffman. Greg Abbott, Attorney General of Texas, argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were Barry R. McBee, First Assistant Attorney General, Edward D. Burbach and Don R. Willett, Deputy Attorneys General, R. Ted Cruz, Solicitor General, Joel L. Thollander and […]

READ MORE


Executives of two counties posted a version of the Ten Commandments on the walls of their courthouses. After suits were filed charging violations of the Establishment Clause, the legislative body of each county adopted a resolution calling for a more extensive exhibit meant to show that the Commandments are Kentucky's "precedent legal code," Def. Exh. 1 in Memorandum in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in Civ. Action No. 99-507, p. 1 (ED Ky.) (hereinafter Def. Exh. 1). The result in each instance was a modified display of the Commandments surrounded by texts containing religious references as their sole common element. After changing counsel, the counties revised the exhibits again by eliminating some documents, expanding the text set out in another, and adding some new ones.

READ MORE


(Slip Opinion) OCTOBER TERM, 2009 1 Syllabus NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337. SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES Syllabus SALAZAR, SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, ET AL. v. BUONO CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE […]

READ MORE


Petitioner Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School is a member congregation of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. The Synod classifies its school teachers into two categories: “called” and “lay.” “Called” teachers are regarded as having been called to their vocation by God. To be eligible to be considered “called,” a teacher must complete certain academic requirements, including a course of theological study. Once called, a teacher receives the formal title “Minister of Religion, Commissioned.” “Lay” teachers, by contrast, are not required to be trained by the Synod or even to be Lutheran. Although lay and called teachers at Hosanna-Tabor generally performed the same duties, lay teachers were hired only when called teachers were unavailable. After respondent Cheryl Perich completed the required training, Hosanna-Tabor asked her to become a called teacher. Perich accepted the call and was designated a commissioned minister. In addition to teaching secular subjects, Perich taught a religion class, led her students in daily prayer and devotional exercises, and took her students to a weekly school-wide chapel service. Perich led the chapel service herself about twice a year. Perich developed narcolepsy and began the 2004–2005 school year on disability leave. In January 2005, she notified the school principal that she would be able to report to work in February. The principal responded that the school had already contracted with a lay teacher to fill Perich’s position for the remainder of the school year. The principal also expressed concern that Perich was not yet ready to return to the classroom. The congregation subsequently offered to pay a portion of Perich’s health insurance premiums in exchange for her resignation as a called teacher. Perich refused to resign. In February, Perich presented herself at the school and refused to leave until she received written documentation that she had reported to work. The principal later called Perich and told her that she would likely be fired. Perich responded that she had spoken with an attorney and intended to assert her legal rights. In a subsequent letter, the chairman of the school board advised Perich that the congregation would consider whether to rescind her call at its next meeting. As grounds for termination, the letter cited Perich’s “insubordination and disruptive behavior,” as well as the damage she had done to her “working relationship” with the school by “threatening to take legal action.” The congregation voted to rescind Perich’s call, and Hosanna-Tabor sent her a letter of termination. Perich filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that her employment had been terminated in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC brought suit against Hosanna-Tabor, alleging that Perich had been fired in retaliation for threatening to file an ADA lawsuit. Perich intervened in the litigation. Invoking what is known as the “ministerial exception,” Hosanna-Tabor argued that the suit was barred by the First Amendment because the claims concerned the employment relationship between a religious institution and one of its ministers. The District Court agreed and granted summary judgment in Hosanna-Tabor’s favor. The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded. It recognized the existence of a ministerial exception rooted in the First Amendment, but concluded that Perich did not qualify as a “minister” under the exception. Held: 1. The Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment bar suits brought on behalf of ministers against their churches, claiming termination in violation of employment discrimination laws. Pp. 6–15. (a) The First Amendment provides, in part, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Familiar with life under the established Church of England, the founding generation sought to foreclose the possibility of a national church. By forbidding the “establishment of religion” and guaranteeing the “free exercise thereof,” the Religion Clauses ensured that the new Federal Government—unlike the English Crown—would have no role in filling ecclesiastical offices. Pp. 6–10. (b) This Court first considered the issue of government interference with a church’s ability to select its own ministers in the context of disputes over church property. This Court’s decisions in that area confirm that it is impermissible for the government to contradict a church’s determination of who can act as its ministers. See Watson v. Jones, 13 Wall. 679; Kedroff v. Saint Nicholas Cathedral of Russian Orthodox Church in North America, 344 U. S. 94 ; Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese for United States and Canada v. Milivojevich, 426 U. S. 696 . Pp. 10–12. (c) Since the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other employment discrimination laws, the Courts of Appeals have uniformly recognized the existence of a “ministerial exception,” grounded in the First Amendment, that precludes application of such legislation to claims concerning the employment relationship between a religious institution and its ministers. The Court agrees that there is such a ministerial exception. 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. The EEOC and Perich contend that religious organizations can defend against employment discrimination claims by invoking their First Amendment right to freedom of association. They thus see no need—and no basis—for a special rule for ministers grounded in the Religion Clauses themselves. Their position, however, is hard to square with the text of the First Amendment itself, which gives special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations. The Court cannot accept the remarkable view that the Religion Clauses have nothing to say about a religious organization’s freedom to select its own ministers. The EEOC and Perich also contend that Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U. S. 872 , precludes recognition of a ministerial exception. But Smith involved government regulation of only outward physical acts. The present case, in contrast, concerns government interference with an internal church decision that affects the faith and mission of the church itself. Pp. 13–15. 2. Because Perich was a minister within the meaning of the ministerial exception, the First Amendment requires dismissal of this employment discrimination suit against her religious employer. Pp. 15–21. (a) The ministerial exception is not limited to the head of a religious congregation. The Court, however, does not adopt a rigid formula for deciding when an employee qualifies as a minister. Here, it is enough to conclude that the exception covers Perich, given all the circumstances of her employment. Hosanna-Tabor held her out as a minister, with a role distinct from that of most of its members. That title represented a significant degree of religious training followed by a formal process of commissioning. Perich also held herself out as a minister by, for example, accepting the formal call to religious service. And her job duties reflected a role in conveying the Church’s message and carrying out its mission: As a source of religious instruction, Perich played an important part in transmitting the Lutheran faith. In concluding that Perich was not a minister under the exception, the Sixth Circuit committed three errors. First, it failed to see any relevance in the fact that Perich was a commissioned minister. Although such a title, by itself, does not automatically ensure coverage, the fact that an employee has been ordained or commissioned as a minister is surely relevant, as is the fact that significant religious training and a recognized religious mission underlie the description of the employee’s position. Second, the Sixth Circuit gave too much weight to the fact that lay teachers at the school performed the same religious duties as Perich. Though relevant, it cannot be dispositive that others not formally recognized as ministers by the church perform the same functions—particularly when, as here, they did so only because commissioned ministers were unavailable. Third, the Sixth Circuit placed too much emphasis on Perich’s performance of secular duties. Although the amount of time an employee spends on particular activities is relevant in assessing that employee’s status, that factor cannot be considered in isolation, without regard to the other considerations discussed above. Pp. 15–19. (b) Because Perich was a minister for purposes of the exception, this suit must be dismissed. An order reinstating Perich as a called teacher would have plainly violated the Church’s freedom under the Religion Clauses to select its own ministers. Though Perich no longer seeks reinstatement, she continues to seek frontpay, backpay, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. An award of such relief would operate as a penalty on the Church for terminating an unwanted minister, and would be no less prohibited by the First Amendment than an order overturning the termination. Such relief would depend on a determination that Hosanna-Tabor was wrong to have relieved Perich of her position, and it is precisely such a ruling that is barred by the ministerial exception. Any suggestion that Hosanna-Tabor’s asserted religious reason for firing Perich was pretextual misses the point of the ministerial exception. The purpose of the exception is not to safeguard a church’s decision to fire a minister only when it is made for a religious reason. The exception instead ensures that the authority to select and control who will minister to the faithful is the church’s alone. Pp. 19–20. (c) Today the Court holds only that the ministerial exception bars an employment discrimination suit brought on behalf of a minister, challenging her church’s decision to fire her. The Court expresses no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits. Pp. 20–21. 597 F. 3d 769, reversed. Roberts, C. J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. Thomas, J., filed a concurring opinion. Alito, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Kagan, J., joined.

READ MORE


(Slip Opinion) OCTOBER TERM, 2013 1 Syllabus NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337. SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES Syllabus TOWN OF GREECE, NEW YORK v. GALLOWAY ET AL. CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE […]

READ MORE


Help FIRE protect the speech rights of students and faculty.

Support FIRE
css.php