Supreme Court Case Could Impact Catholic School Teachers
WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) -- A lawsuit heard this week by the United States Supreme Court could have an impact on Catholic school teachers across the country.
Two fifth grade teachers at Catholic schools in Los Angeles sued their former employers after getting fired. One was a breast cancer patient who sued over an alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the other over an alleged violation of the Age Discrimination Law.
Phil Kronebusch is a Political Science Professor at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University. He says the Catholic schools are saying that the women taught some religion, so federal laws don't apply because they have freedom under the first amendment. However, the lawyer for the women said a ruling against them could have a wide-ranging impact.
The lawyer representing the teachers said exactly that, he said hundreds of thousands of employees across the country would in some ways lost federal legal protections if the Supreme Court interprets this first amendment issue that broadly.
The lawyer's argument is that his clients taught just a little bit of religion and explained features of the mass, but they were not religious teachers.
The Supreme Court appears to be divided over how broadly Catholic schools and other religious employers should be exempt from certain lawsuits by employees. The case before the high court stems from a unanimous 2012 Supreme Court decision in which the justices said the Constitution prevents ministers from suing their churches for employment discrimination. But the court didn't rigidly define who counts as a minister.
A lawyer representing the two Catholic schools told the justices that the women count as ministers and are therefore exempt from suing.
The court heard the oral arguments this week on the case but has not made a ruling yet.