It’s free discrimination day!
The Supreme Court just assured all churches that they can freely discriminate against any employee they want. That’s right. So if you work for a church: Don’t have a disability, don’t get sick, don’t have a baby, don’t, well, don’t do any of those things that humans do. Because if you do, the church can fire you and face no legal consequences at all.
The court handed down a decision today in a case (I wrote about it here) involving a teacher at a religious school who was fired after she threatened to sue over her disability. The church school said she was a “minister,” and thus fell under the ministerial exception, which allows churches to determine who can and can not be a minister. The teacher had been commissioned as a teacher, and spent a small amount of her time on religious duties.
Many people are expressing how happy they are that the Supreme Court upheld religious freedom today. I wish I could agree. What I see is a decision that assures religious organizations they can fire disabled people at will. I can’t imagine there won’t be a sudden surge in churches calling employees “ministers.” Why wouldn’t they, now? After all, virtually every denomination and religious association in the U.S. supported this (except, I might add, for the UUA and a tiny handful of religious organizations that are not churches).
I’m too cynical to think this won’t be used as a precedent the next time a church fires someone because of their race or gender, too. As one of the briefs in the case pointed out, a church that does not ordain women to its clergy could nevertheless avoid disability lawsuits by claiming women who work in churches are ministers.
Congratulations, churches across our country. You just won the right to discriminate against anyone you want. I hope you’re happy.