Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Lutheran Sharia

The Supreme court today hears the case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. in the case, one of the Lutheran school's teachers, Cheryl Perich, was diagnosed with narcolepsy. After a medical leave of absence, she informed the school that her doctor said that given her course of treatment she should be able to return to the classroom in a matter of months. The school changed their health insurance policy to one that was covered less and told her that she should resign. When she declined and threatened to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act, she was fired -- something the ADA explicitly and clearly forbids.

The school openly admits that it was a retribution firing, but argues that because Perich attended a Lutheran college and received a degree, that she is a minister and since it is a religious school, they can extend a big ol' middle finger of Christian charity at their former employee because the law does not apply to them. They are arguing that the ministerial exception allows them to be above the law. Because they are a religious organization and this math and science teacher also had a couple of religious-related duties, that they can simply ignore the law of the land.

We have witnessed the spectacle of Christian conservatives passing laws to make sure that Islamic sharia law cannot become US law or influence judicial decision making in any way. But here, we have the same sort of folks arguing that internal Lutheran decision making needs to completely trump US law. The fact that this person is associated with a Christian denomination, the line goes, means that US law does not apply, internal church procedures are the only recourse for decision making.

We allow religious institutions to discriminate in hiring and in the benefits they off er their workers. This is wrong. But this case is particularly egregious. In the name of fairness and justice, these exceptions need to end. If it violates your theology to follow the law, I'm sorry. Laws need to apply to everyone regardless of race, sex, creed, or sexual orientation. These exceptions are simply wrong and hopefully we will see a decision in this case in favor of liberty and justice for ALL.