In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that churches are entitled to make employment decisions without interference by the government. In doing so, the high court affirmed what is known as the doctrine of “ministerial exception,” the long-standing right of churches to be shielded from discrimination lawsuits brought by employees.
In statement from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop William E. Lori of Connecticut said it was a "great day for the First Amendment." He serves as chairm of the conference's committee on religious liberty. “It’s a great day for the First Amendment,” said Bishop Lori on January 11, after the Supreme Court voted. The USCCB was concerned that the federal government, failing this decision, would have been able to determine who can serve as ministers in churches and temples.
In a statement, Bishop Lori declared "The Supreme Court decision marks a victory for religious liberty and the U.S. Constitution. Freedom of Religion is America’s First Freedom and the Court has spoken unanimously in favor of it. The Founding Fathers would be proud. Respect for the long-standing “ministerial exception,” which is grounded in the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment and prevents the government from interfering in the employment relationship between a Church and its ministers. This decision makes resoundingly clear the historical and constitutional importance of keeping internal church affairs off limits to the government—because whoever chooses the minister chooses the message. It’s a great day for the First Amendment."
Also speaking to the issue was Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, an advocacy organization based in New York. In a statement, Donohue said, "This is a great victory for religious liberty and a huge defeat for the Obama administration. Last October, when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in this case, the Obama administration’s lawyer proved to be such a secular zealot that she stunned even the more liberal members of the high court. Leondra R. Kruger made such an extremist argument that she even got Justice Elena Kagan to agree wholeheartedly with Justice Antonin Scalia. Had the Obama administration won, the government would have been able to order the Catholic Church to accept women priests. Looks like the old guard, entrenched in the 1960s, has lost again. Many thanks to Leondra for blowing it big time."