Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A bad misstep by the Ninth Circuit in a ministerial-exception case

Opinion hereInside Higher Ed commentary here.  The ruling is, put simply, nuts.  (Or, put more gently, "entirely incompatible with Supreme Court precedent.)  The Ninth Circuit acknowledged that:

[The fifth-grade teacher's] contract stated that she would work “within [St. James’s] overriding commitment” to Church “doctrines, laws, and norms” and would “model, teach, and promote behavior in conformity to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.” St. James’s mission statement provides that the school “work[s] to facilitate the development of confident, competent, and caring Catholic-Christian citizens prepared to be responsible members of their church[,] local[,] and global communities.” According to the school’s faculty handbook, teachers at St. James “participate in the Church’s mission” of providing “quality Catholic education to . . . students, educating them in academic areas and in . . . Catholic faith and values.” The faculty handbook further instructs teachers to follow not only archdiocesan curricular guidelines but also California’s public-school curricular requirements.

It is very difficult to see this ruling as anything other than an effort to ignore Hosanna-Tabor.  It's hard to be too confident that this mistake will be corrected en banc (given the Circuit), but it should be.  A fifth-grade teacher at a parochial school is a "minister", within the meaning of that decision.


Garnett, Rick | Permalink