Family Policy Alliance® applauds the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and Little Sisters of the Poor. Both cases dealt with the freedom of religious institutions to follow their convictions, and in both cases the Court dealt strong rulings in support of religious freedom. The two cases asked can courts interfere with the employment decisions of religious institutions and can the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) force religious employers to cover contraceptives in their health plans? In both cases, the answer was a resounding “no.”
Here are our takeaways.
- Religious institutions, such as faith-based schools, are protected from court interference in their employment decisions.
Our Lady of Guadalupe centered around a Catholic school that simply made an employment decision about one of its teachers – and got sued for it. The case asked whether the First Amendment prevents courts from interfering in situations like the one faced by the Catholic school. Yesterday, the Court took a stand on the side of freedom for religious institutions.
Courts have often recognized the freedom churches have when they make employment decisions, particularly about those positions that include teaching or more public aspects to them. It’s a concept known as the “ministerial exception,” that ensures religious institutions are free from court interference in their constitutionally protected operations. As yesterday’s majority opinion described the exception:
“Without that power, a wayward minister’s preaching, teaching, and counseling could contradict the church’s tenets and lead the congregation away from the faith. The ministerial exception was recognized to preserve a church’s independent authority in such matters.”
Yesterday the Court extended that exception to apply when a religious institution makes employment decisions about staff who may not be labeled as “ministers” but who are otherwise involved in teaching or sharing the faith. In the case of the Catholic school, it affirms their freedom to make employment decisions about their teachers, who are vital to sharing the faith in the school’s ministry.
The Court explained the importance of this ruling as it relates to schools:
“When a school with a religious mission entrusts a teacher with the responsibility of educating and forming students in the faith, judicial intervention into disputes between the school and the teacher threatens the school’s independence in a way that the First Amendment does not allow.”
This is a major win for the First Amendment freedoms of religious institutions!
- The government can’t force employers to cover contraception on their health plans when they have a religious or moral objection to it.
The Little Sisters of the Poor are an order of nuns, who take a vow of chastity, who serve the elderly poor, and who believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all human life. Under Obamacare, the nuns would have been forced to pay for contraceptives in deep violation of their beliefs. When faced with the decision to pay a steep fine or compromise their beliefs, the nuns sued over the Obamacare regulations. The Court ruled in their favor twice and required the Obama administration to find a solution that recognized the nuns’ religious beliefs. The Obama administration failed to do so.
When President Trump came to office, his administration quickly used a regulation to temporarily solve the problem the Little Sisters faced under Obamacare. However, some left-leaning leaders couldn’t let the nuns have any peace, and tried to block the Trump Administration’s regulation.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court hopefully settled the nun’s case once and for all by affirming the Trump administration’s regulation protecting religious freedom for the Little Sisters. Because of yesterday’s ruling, people will not be forced to pay for contraception against their moral or religious convictions.
Once again, it’s a huge win for Constitutionally-protected religious freedom. And it affirms that President Trump is thoroughly pro-American. After all, America ceases to be America without religious freedom – and the Trump administration understands that.
After mixed news from the Court the last few weeks, we are grateful for the good news yesterday!