Article by: Zach Tafoya
41 PEPP. L. REV. 169 (2013)
When it comes to the expression and inculcation of religious doctrine, there can be no doubt that the messenger matters.
– Justice Samuel Alito
On January 11, 2012, the Supreme Court decided a case in which a seemingly unstoppable force was halted by a constitutionally immovable object. The case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, involved a claim brought by fourth-grade teacher Cheryl Perich against her previous employer, a Lutheran school, seeking damages for her allegedly retaliatory termination under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The case represented the first time that the constitutionality of the “ministerial exception”—a judge-made doctrine that precludes courts from deciding any employment discrimination claim brought against a religious organization by or on behalf of one of its ministers—would be considered by the Supreme Court. The case also provided the long-awaited opportunity for the Court to answer the question that had plagued the circuit courts for over four decades: how and by whom should an employee’s “ministerial-status” be determined?