on Sep 15, 2011 at 1:57 pm
On October 5, the Court will hear argument in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, which has been called the Courtâ€™s â€œmost important religious-liberty case in many years.â€ The Court will decide whether the so-called â€œministerial exceptionâ€ bars a teacher at a Lutheran grade school from suing the school for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Â The â€œministerial exceptionâ€ â€“ which has been widely recognized by the lower courts but never addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court â€“ is a First-Amendment inspired doctrine that immunizes religious institutions from lawsuit for some employment decisions concerning employees with religious duties.Â With this case, the Court has the opportunity to address the contours of a rule excepting religious institutions from many of the laws regulating employment.Â (Disclaimer:Â Goldstein & Russell represents the NAACP Legal Defense Fund et al. as amici curiae in support of respondent.)
The legal academy has been debating these issues for years, and thus it is not surprising that law professors are well-represented on both sides of the issue.Â Professor Christopher Lund has a forthcoming article in the North Carolina Law Review defending the ministerial exception.Â Taking the opposing view, Professors Caroline Mala Corbin and Marci Hamilton have each published articles critiquing the ministerial exception.Â Law professors have filed amicus briefs for both the petitioner and respondent.Â Finally, Professor Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia School of Law is counsel of record for the Church.Â This is a case that will be closely watched by religious and academic institutions alike.