Thursday, July 9, 2020

SCOTUS ruling in Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru is a license to discriminate

“The important message is that LGBTQ individuals should not accept employment at religious schools.”
The nine justices of the United States Supreme Court
Employment nondiscrimination protection afforded by Title VII extends to religious organization with the exception of ministers. Wednesday's ruling did not change that.

However, the Court has now said that all teachers at Catholic schools are ministers regardless of whether or not they provide religious leadership. In other words, “minister” no longer means minister.

Last October Agnes Morrissey-Berru filed a brief in opposition to the request for the Supreme Court to hear this case. According to the brief:
the school neither required its teachers to be Catholic, nor required them to have any training, experience, or education in religion or in teaching the Catholic faith;
- the teacher at hand did not have any formal training, degrees, or certificates with regard to teaching the Catholic faith when she was hired as a teacher by Petitioner;
- the school regarded its teachers as “lay” employees, and the school itself attributed a completely secular title of “teacher” to them;
- the teacher at hand neither considered herself a “minister,” nor held herself out as one;
- although the teacher taught religion, it was only one of numerous subjects she taught to her students, the remainder of which were secular subjects;
- the teacher prayed alongside her students, but did not lead them in prayer;
- the teacher merely accompanied her students to weekly mass, but did not lead any part of the mass or participate in presenting the Eucharist; and
- the teacher did not lead her students, the school, or the community in any other Catholic rituals or practices?
That does not describe a minister. Moreover, it creates a two-tier system. Teachers who are Catholic are presumed to be ministers. I doubt that that would apply to a teacher who was not Catholic.

The bottom line is that TWG (teaching while gay) is perilous particularly if the teacher gets married. The United States Congress of Catholic Bishops just received a license to discriminate.

Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg, after citing appellate cases noted in their dissent: “This focus on leadership led to a consistent conclusion: Lay faculty, even those who teach religion at church-affiliated schools, are not “ministers.” ”

It makes little sense to argue that the Court got it wrong. The important message is that LGBTQ individuals should not accept employment at religious schools.

Still open for litigation are people employed as guidance counselors, athletic coaches, cooks, band leaders and so on. However, I suspect that the Court would come to the same conclusion.

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