Administrators in the Diocese of Davenport said they’re glad the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the “ministerial exception” to anti-discrimination laws, but added that Catholic institutions will likely continue current employment practices.
“I don’t believe Catholic schools should see this ruling as an exemption from Christian principles of fairness,” said Lee Morrison, diocesan superintendent of schools. “Employees still deserve the right to know what they have done wrong or how they violated Church policy and receive an opportunity to correct that before termination.”
“We don’t feel the Supreme Court decision will have much effect on our diocese,” said Char Maaske, the diocese’s chief financial officer. “The pastors and school administrators in the diocese attempt to hire qualified ministers who are well trained in the teachings of the Catholic Church. However, sometimes the hiring decision does not work out due to employment issues. Employment decisions follow our handbook in our goal to treat people fairly.”
The Supreme Court case involved teacher Cheryl Perich, who taught primarily secular courses at Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford, Mich. After she went on sick leave in 2004, administrators hired a replacement and urged her to resign. When she threatened to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the school fired her.
The school argued that her termination was protected by the First Amendment because she was a “called” minister of the church.
Catholic-school staffers are serving the Church and are expected to model Christian values, Morrison said. “We consider Catholic education a mission of the Church. We have to protect the integrity of our faith.”
“The affirmation of the Supreme Court in upholding the First Amendment is very good news for the Church,” Maaske said.
To read the full story on the ruling, visit http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1200184.htm.