US bishops welcome court ruling on schools

The female figure called Contemplation of Justice outside the US Supreme Court in Washington where a ruling was made in favour of Catholic schools being able to fire teachers (CNS/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Two US bishops said they welcomed the Supreme Court's 7-2 ruling which said California Catholic schools could not be sued for job discrimination in firing teachers. Source: CNS.

The bishops said the decision "rightly acknowledged" the limit on state authority.

The decision, written by ustice Samuel Alito, said: "What matters, at bottom, is what an employee does".

He said that even though the elementary school teachers "were not given the title of 'minister' and have less religious training" than the teacher in the previous court case involving the ministerial exception, the court holds that the same rule applies.

"The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission," Justice Alito wrote.

Dissenting votes were by justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

"Education is a central aspect of the church's mission," the bishops said. "As "institutions carrying out a ministry of the church, Catholic schools have a right, recognised by the Constitution, to select people who will perform ministry. The government has no authority to second-guess those ministerial decisions."

The statement was issued by Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Michael Barber, of Oakland, California, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Catholic Education.

Adrian Alarcon, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Catholic Schools, similarly pointed out that "religious schools play an integral role in passing the faith to the next generation of believers" and that the archdiocesan Catholic schools are "grateful that the Supreme Court recognised faith groups must be free to make their own decisions about who should be entrusted with these essential duties".

This case examined if courts can hear employment discrimination claims brought by teachers at Catholic elementary schools. It involved California Catholic school teachers who claimed they had been victims of job discrimination and the schools who fired them who said they were exempt from anti-discrimination laws due to ministerial exception spelled out in a previous Supreme Court case about a fired teacher at a Lutheran school.


US bishops welcome court decision on Catholic schools (By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service)


Catholic school teachers are 'ministers', Supreme Court rules (Catholic News Agency)

US Supreme Court protects religious schools from employment bias suits (Reuters)

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