The “Hosanna-Tabor” Case in the US Supreme Court
“Evangelical Lutheran Church and School Hosanna-Tabor v. Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities-CIOE” is a famous case decided in January 2012 by the United States Supreme Court. It addressed the right to religious freedom and the establishment clause, the "ministerial exception" and the limits of state intervention in the internal affairs of a church.
Arguably, "Hosanna-Tabor" is the most important case on religious freedom to reach the Supreme Court in the last 20 years. A case in which the Supreme Court established a milestone in the understanding of cases involving labor relations and religions ...view middle of the document...
This exception is recognized in jurisprudence because of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Ultimately, The Supreme Court unanimously held the right granted to the Church to dismiss the teacher.
To understand the case, it is necessary to take into account that the church distinguishes its teachers by "called" and "secular". The "called" teachers (or a rough translation of the term" commissioned") are those that the congregation understands that they have received the call of God, and must conform to certain requirements. One way is to complete a study program at a school or Lutheran college in which the candidate must take eight courses of theological studies. Then, they must obtain the approval of the church’s local administration and pass an oral examination conducted by a committee of teachers. After all this procedure, the teacher can be considered to be "called" and receive the title "Religion Minister in Charge"; in the Hosanna-Tabor School, a "called" teacher has a contract of indefinite duration and can only be fired for just cause and with a majority vote from the congregation.
The Responsible Minister is a figure that the Lutherans took from a passage in the Book of Acts, where the apostles appointed Assistants to help them. The Minister in charge is seen as one who carries out part of the responsibilities of an ordained pastor. On the other hand, a secular teacher is not formally trained by the church, nor is he or she required to be of the Lutheran faith.
The teacher, Cheryl Perich, was hired in 1999 by Hosanna-Tabor and in that same year completed the required courses in religious studies. She was then invited by the school to hold the position of "called" teacher. Then, Perich received the vocation diploma and accepted the "call", becoming a "called" teacher.
In 2004, the teacher became ill and was diagnosed with narcolepsy, a condition that causes a sudden and deep sleep crisis, which the subject cannot be awakened. Because of her condition, Ms. Perich obtained a medical authorization to be absent in the academic year of 2004/2005. However, in January 2005, the teacher notified the school that she could go back to work in the following month. The Principal’s response was that a substitute teacher had been hired for the rest of the academic year.
Also in that January, the school congregation met and decided that because the teacher would not be unable to return to her duties in that year or the next, they would reduce her status from "called" to secular. In return, she would be partly compensated, relative to the payment of the health insurance. Ms. Perish rejected the offer and presented a medical document stating that she would be able to work in early February. Then, the school board said it would not be possible for her to resume her post. Later, the teacher was informed that the school was planning to fire her, whereupon Perish threatened to sue the school for discrimination under the...