Unanimous Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor Recognizes Ministerial Exception and Affirms Religious Organizations' Rights Under First Amendment.


On January 11, 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued what is perhaps its most significant religious freedom decision yet in this century, strongly upholding the religious hiring rights of religious organizations. In Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Evangelical Church and School v. EEOC, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of a church employer against a challenge by a discharged schoolteacher that her termination constituted disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of federal employment laws. The Court affirmed that the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment require that churches and religious organizations be free from lawsuits brought by a minister under federal employment discrimination laws. The landmark 9-0 decision, coming less than three months after the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit's decision in the World Vision case, provides a strong reaffirmation of the First Amendment basis for religious organizations' hiring and firing rights.

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