Chilling: SCOTUS hears case touching on right of Churches to self-determination, “ministerial exception”, discrimination

From CWN:

In argument before the Supreme Court on an anti-discrimination case, the solicitor general—representing the Obama administration—said that the government would uphold the right of the Catholic Church to preserve an all-male priesthood, [NB:] but only “because the balance of relative public and private interests is different in each case.”

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, in which a woman charged that she was wrongfully dismissed from a teaching position at a Lutheran school. School officials countered that the teacher had been dismissed because she did not accept the teachings of the church. The case turned on the “ministerial exception” that is traditionally according to religious bodies, allowing them to set the standards for their own religious personnel. [Which protects churches from being compelled to ordain persons considerable unsuitable or impossible to ordain, that is accusations of “discrimination”.]

Leodra Kruger, making the case for the solicitor general, [the lawyer for the Obama Administration] questioned the “ministerial exception” directly. When questioned by Chief Justice John Roberts on whether religious groups should have the right to judge the qualifications of their own key employees, she replied: [NB] “We don’t see that line of church autonomy principles in the religion clause jurisprudence as such.” [!]

When Justice Stephen Breyer pressed the issue, asking specifically whether the Catholic Church should be allowed to bar women from the priesthood, Kruger replied: “The government’s general interest in eradicating discrimination in the workplace is simply not sufficient to justify changing the way that the Catholic Church chooses its priests, based on gender roles that are rooted in religious doctrine.” [NB] But by casting her legal argument in terms of the government’s interests, rather than the unchanging language of the First Amendment, she left open the possibility that at some future date, under different circumstances, the government could side with women seeking ordination as Catholic priests.  [Remember: Pres. Obama made promises that under Obamacare no tax money would pay for abortions, that there would be respect for the consciences of health industry workers, doctors etc.  Now, however, we see that they are doing a kabuki dance with language about “freedom of worship” and “freedom of religion” so eerie that it would frighten George Orwell.  But remember, the Catholic Health Association and the LCWR types gave cover to pro-abortion catholic politicians over and against the concerns of the US Bishops.]

Several justices expressed qualms about Kruger’s legal reasoning during the oral arguments. When they eventually issue a ruling on the Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC case, the Supreme Court justices may reject [may reject] the solicitor general’s logic and affirm the “ministerial exception.” But their decision could also making Hosanna a landmark case in the interpretation of the First Amendment—and in the Church’s defense of the all-male priesthood.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Our Catholic Identity, TEOTWAWKI, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Is there on the world anything like a female Imam? What will the american muslims say, when they realize that such a court spell would affect them too?

  2. Joe Magarac says:

    I like CWN, but this is fear-mongering. Here’s why:

    1. The lawyer in question – Leondra Kruger – started working as a government lawyer in 2007, when Bush was in office. She has stayed in the solicitor general’s office since Obama took office. But she is not a political appointee.

    2. Ms. Kruger made the statements at issue in oral argument and not in writing. Written legal statements are the product of considered reflection. Oral statements are the product of less reflection. The fact that Kruger gave one rationale for letting the Church’s all-male priesthood survive anti-discrimination laws in oral argument doesn’t tell us anything about what she (or the government) thinks about alternate rationales.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    I saw this item last week on Drudge Report. The present government has consistently wanted to minimize the role of religion in the public square-a heresy and a position long held by the Masons. If the vast majority of political appointees come from the ideological background of the Modernist heresies, including Marxist, socialism,eirenism (making peace with atheistic principles for a supposed higher good–denying dogmas, for example), the rejection of the Transcendent in the shape of stupid ideologies and the growth of messianism without God, the growth of gnosticism and the adoption of immanentism , the rejection of the denial of the Incarnation, the denial of a historical institution which is the Church (not merely a totally spiritual, but incarnated reality), “here they forget that while religion is essentially for the soul, it is not exclusively for the soul, and that the honour paid to authority is reflected back on Jesus Christ who instituted i.”; and (taking a breath), the acceptance of the heresy of Americanism, have led us to this place where I fully expect a negative decision for the Church. Once the one, true, holy and Catholic Church loses its place in history and public life, it is placed on the level of “cult” in the eyes of those who follow all or some of the above false thinking.

  4. jfm says:


    Hosanna in the Highest (Court)

  5. TC says:

    The Justices aren’t buying the Kruger’s arguments, even Kagan, see the Christian Science Monitor:

  6. irishgirl says:

    This is all the more urgent, that Obama be voted out of office next year!

  7. LisaP. says:

    It may never happen, but it is certainly possible that the Church in America will have to make the same kind of choices the Church in China (and in so many other places) has to make — whether to continue in an amicable relationship with the government and culture at large or to be the Church and let the government and the culture make its own way. I never quite understand why Americans think we’re immune to these kinds of things. The only thing that has protected us to date is conscious choice. We are the America we were only as long as we continue to choose to be. There’s no magic to it. The day we choose otherwise (a day which may have already come) is the day we are otherwise. Simple as that.

  8. chironomo says:


    You have hit the nail on the head as they say. The relationship between Church and State in the US is not so enshrined in the Constitution as some might like to think, but rather is more like an agreement between two parties who both have an interest in upholding it. True…the government cannot legislate that one must follow a specific religious belief, nor can it pass a law restricting the practice of one’s religion so long as such practice does not conflict with the law… and theirein is the rub. At such a time that there is the political will to determine that the notion of “equality” (in the politically correct sense) trumps the freedom of religious groups to be self-determining, the situation will quickly turn to one in which the Church will have to necessarily withdraw from any recognized relationship with the secular government. We then become an underground group… now where have we heard that prediction?

  9. Theodore says:

    @ Joe 10/10/2011, 7:50 am.

    I asked my son, the real lawyer who does appellate practice ab0ut your thought that oral arguments are not all that important.

    His reply: “Any important and necessary concession and/or argument should have been apparent during briefing. Any unanticipated concession and/or argument made during oral argument is likely to appear in an opinion.”

  10. Dave N. says:

    This article could have been a little more balanced to help people understand better what’s at stake. Much of the missing information is helpfully provided in the CS Monitor link from TC–notably, that suing the church is what the church considered “against church teaching” in this case.” It’s not like the woman was a renegade heretic as far as I know. The woman left her job for health reasons, was replaced, and then threatened to sue to get her job back, after which she was formally fired by the congregation.

    But neither article addresses the fact that similar to clergymen, the LCMS (which I’m assuming is the flavor of Lutheranism under discussion here) has as category for ministry referred to as a “called teacher.” (To get a better feel for the lingo, when Lutheran churches hire ordained ministers, they are “called” by the congregation.) Though of course not ordained (the LCMS does not ordain women), in similar fashion, this teacher was a “called teacher”–“called” as a minister of the church, which is, I would argue, worlds apart from simply hiring someone off the street to teach math. Understanding this particular element of the case helps highlight why this is such an extremely important case for ongoing religious liberty in the U.S.

  11. Legisperitus says:

    Church and State ought to stay in their proper spheres, but the vaunted American “separation of Church and State” is revealing itself as a subordination of Church to State, with the State tolerating the Church only when it is not inconvenient.

  12. DisturbedMary says:

    These people are the stuff of Psalms. Even if the Statists lose this one, it as only round one. These enemies never give up. They encamp around us. With each battle, they refine and groom for the next. Victory with a million cuts.

Comments are closed.