Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n, No. 10–553.

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtChief Justice ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Parties HOSANNA–TABOR EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH AND SCHOOL, Petitioner v. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION et al.
Decision Date11 January 2012
Docket NumberNo. 10–553.

565 U.S. 171
132 S.Ct.
694
181 L.Ed.2d 650

HOSANNA–TABOR EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH AND SCHOOL, Petitioner
v.
EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION et al.

No. 10–553.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued Oct. 5, 2011.
Decided Jan. 11, 2012.


Douglas Laycock, Charlottesville, VA, for Petitioner.

Leondra R. Kruger, Washington, DC, for Federal Respondent.

132 S.Ct. 699

Walter Dellinger, Washington, DC, for Private Respondent.

Eric C. Rassbach, Hannah C. Smith, Luke W. Goodrich, Lori H. Windham, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Washington, DC, Joshua D. Hawley, University of Missouri School of Law, Columbia, MO, Douglas Laycock, Counsel of Record, University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, VA, Sherri C. Strand, James W. Erwin, Thompson Coburn LLP, St. Louis, MO, for Petitioner.

P. David Lopez, General Counsel, Lorraine C. Davis, Acting Associate General Counsel, Carolyn L. Wheeler, Assistant General Counsel, Eric A. Harrington, Attorney, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Washington, DC, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., Solicitor General, Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General, Leondra R. Kruger, Acting Deputy Solicitor General, Counsel of Record, Joseph R. Palmore, Assistant to the Solicitor General, Dennis J. Dimsey, Sharon M. McGowan, Aaron D. Schuham, Attorneys, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Federal Respondent.

James E. Roach, Robert M. Vercruysse, Vercruysse Murray & Calzone, P.C., Bingham Farms, MI, Walter Dellinger, Anton Metlitsky, Loren L. Alikhan, O'Melveny & Myers LLP, Washington, DC, for Private Respondent.

Chief Justice ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

565 U.S. 176

Certain employment discrimination laws authorize employees who have been wrongfully terminated to sue their employers for reinstatement and damages. The question presented is whether the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment bar such an action when

565 U.S. 177

the employer is a religious group and the employee is one of the group's ministers.

I

A

Petitioner Hosanna–Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School is a member congregation of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, the second largest Lutheran denomination in America. Hosanna–Tabor operated a small school in Redford, Michigan, offering a "Christ-centered education" to students in kindergarten through eighth grade. 582 F.Supp.2d 881, 884 (E.D.Mich.2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The Synod classifies teachers into two categories: "called" and "lay." "Called" teachers are regarded as having been called to their vocation by God through a congregation. To be eligible to receive a call from a congregation, a teacher must satisfy certain academic requirements. One way of doing so is by completing a "colloquy" program at a Lutheran college or university. The program requires candidates to take eight courses of theological study, obtain the endorsement of their local Synod district, and pass an oral examination by a faculty committee. A teacher who meets these requirements may be called by a congregation. Once called, a teacher receives the formal title "Minister of Religion, Commissioned." App. 42, 48. A commissioned minister serves for an open-ended term; at Hosanna–Tabor, a call could be rescinded only for cause and by a supermajority vote of the congregation.

"Lay" or "contract" teachers, by contrast, are not required to be trained by the Synod or even to be Lutheran. At Hosanna–Tabor, they were appointed by the

132 S.Ct. 700

school board, without a vote of the congregation, to one-year renewable terms. Although teachers at the school generally performed the same duties regardless of whether they were lay or called, lay teachers were hired only when called teachers were unavailable.

565 U.S. 178

Respondent Cheryl Perich was first employed by Hosanna–Tabor as a lay teacher in 1999. After Perich completed her colloquy later that school year, Hosanna–Tabor asked her to become a called teacher. Perich accepted the call and received a "diploma of vocation" designating her a commissioned minister. Id., at 42.

Perich taught kindergarten during her first four years at Hosanna–Tabor and fourth grade during the 2003–2004 school year. She taught math, language arts, social studies, science, gym, art, and music. She also taught a religion class four days a week, led the students in prayer and devotional exercises each day, and attended a weekly school-wide chapel service. Perich led the chapel service herself about twice a year.

Perich became ill in June 2004 with what was eventually diagnosed as narcolepsy. Symptoms included sudden and deep sleeps from which she could not be roused. Because of her illness, Perich began the 2004–2005 school year on disability leave. On January 27, 2005, however, Perich notified the school principal, Stacey Hoeft, that she would be able to report to work the following month. Hoeft responded that the school had already contracted with a lay teacher to fill Perich's position for the remainder of the school year. Hoeft also expressed concern that Perich was not yet ready to return to the classroom.

On January 30, Hosanna–Tabor held a meeting of its congregation at which school administrators stated that Perich was unlikely to be physically capable of returning to work that school year or the next. The congregation voted to offer Perich a "peaceful release" from her call, whereby the congregation would pay a portion of her health insurance premiums in exchange for her resignation as a called teacher. Id., at 178, 186. Perich refused to resign and produced a note from her doctor stating that she would be able to return to work on February 22. The school board urged Perich to

565 U.S. 179

reconsider, informing her that the school no longer had a position for her, but Perich stood by her decision not to resign.

On the morning of February 22—the first day she was medically cleared to return to work—Perich presented herself at the school. Hoeft asked her to leave but she would not do so until she obtained written documentation that she had reported to work. Later that afternoon, Hoeft called Perich at home and told her that she would likely be fired. Perich responded that she had spoken with an attorney and intended to assert her legal rights.

Following a school board meeting that evening, board chairman Scott Salo sent Perich a letter stating that Hosanna–Tabor was reviewing the process for rescinding her call in light of her "regrettable" actions. Id., at 229. Salo subsequently followed up with a letter advising Perich that the congregation would consider whether to rescind her call at its next meeting. As grounds for termination, the letter cited Perich's "insubordination and disruptive behavior" on February 22, as well as the damage she had done to her "working relationship" with the school by "threatening to take legal action." Id., at 55. The congregation voted to rescind Perich's call on April 10, and Hosanna–Tabor sent her a letter of termination the next day.

132 S.Ct. 701

B

Perich filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that her employment had been terminated in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 104 Stat. 327, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (1990). The ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating against a qualified individual on the basis of disability. § 12112(a). It also prohibits an employer from retaliating "against any individual because such individual has opposed any act or practice made unlawful by [the ADA] or because such individual

565 U.S. 180

made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under [the ADA]." § 12203(a).1

The EEOC brought suit against Hosanna–Tabor, alleging that Perich had been fired in retaliation for threatening to file an ADA lawsuit. Perich intervened in the litigation, claiming unlawful retaliation under both the ADA and the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act, Mich. Comp. Laws § 37.1602(a) (1979). The EEOC and Perich sought Perich's reinstatement to her former position (or frontpay in lieu thereof), along with backpay, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, and other injunctive relief.

Hosanna–Tabor moved for summary judgment. Invoking what is known as the "ministerial exception," the Church argued that the suit was barred by the First Amendment because the claims at issue concerned the employment relationship between a religious institution and one of its ministers. According to the Church, Perich was a minister, and she had been fired for a religious reason—namely, that her threat to sue the Church violated the Synod's belief that Christians should resolve their disputes internally.

The District Court agreed that the suit was barred by the ministerial exception and granted summary judgment in

...

To continue reading

Request your trial
229 practice notes
  • Fulton v. City of Phila., No. 19-123
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 17, 2021
    ...an arm of the Catholic Church—be treated differently than individuals? Cf. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, 565 U. S. 171 (2012). Should there be a distinction between indirect and direct burdens on religious exercise? Cf. Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U. S. 599, 606-......
  • Nat'l Inst. of Family & Life Advocates v. Schneider, No. 3:16 C 50310
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • September 3, 2020
    ...of their Free Exercise claim are distinguishable. The NIFLA Plaintiffs cite Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. E.E.O.C. , 565 U.S. 171, 132 S.Ct. 694, 181 L.Ed.2d 650 (2012), for the proposition that some long-established historical religious practices may not be burdened e......
  • Legacy Church, Inc. v. Kunkel, No. CIV 20-0327 JB\SCY
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • April 17, 2020
    ...to rational basis review, not strict scrutiny. See NM Response at 4 (citing Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. EEOC, 565 U.S. 171, 190, 132 S.Ct. 694, 181 L.Ed.2d 650 (2012) ; Taylor v. Roswell Indep. Sch. Dist., 713 F.3d 25, 52 (10th Cir. 2013) ). According to New Mexico, ......
  • Trs. of the Gen. Assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. v. Patterson, CIVIL ACTION NO. 21-634-KSM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 19, 2021
    ...will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission," see Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. EEOC , 565 U.S. 171, 196, 132 S.Ct. 694, 181 L.Ed.2d 650 (2012), and in ensuring that their religious practices are not infringed upon.Moreover, contrary to th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
230 cases
  • Fulton v. City of Phila., No. 19-123
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 17, 2021
    ...an arm of the Catholic Church—be treated differently than individuals? Cf. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, 565 U. S. 171 (2012). Should there be a distinction between indirect and direct burdens on religious exercise? Cf. Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U. S. 599, 606-......
  • Nat'l Inst. of Family & Life Advocates v. Schneider, No. 3:16 C 50310
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • September 3, 2020
    ...of their Free Exercise claim are distinguishable. The NIFLA Plaintiffs cite Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. E.E.O.C. , 565 U.S. 171, 132 S.Ct. 694, 181 L.Ed.2d 650 (2012), for the proposition that some long-established historical religious practices may not be burdened e......
  • Legacy Church, Inc. v. Kunkel, No. CIV 20-0327 JB\SCY
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • April 17, 2020
    ...to rational basis review, not strict scrutiny. See NM Response at 4 (citing Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. EEOC, 565 U.S. 171, 190, 132 S.Ct. 694, 181 L.Ed.2d 650 (2012) ; Taylor v. Roswell Indep. Sch. Dist., 713 F.3d 25, 52 (10th Cir. 2013) ). According to New Mexico, ......
  • Trs. of the Gen. Assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. v. Patterson, CIVIL ACTION NO. 21-634-KSM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 19, 2021
    ...will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission," see Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. EEOC , 565 U.S. 171, 196, 132 S.Ct. 694, 181 L.Ed.2d 650 (2012), and in ensuring that their religious practices are not infringed upon.Moreover, contrary to th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Sex Discrimination Claims Under Title Vii of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • United States
    • Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law Nbr. XXII-2, January 2021
    • January 1, 2021
    ...2-threshold-issues#2-II-A-1-c. 370. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and Sch. v. EEOC, 565 U.S. 171, 188–89 (2012). 371. Id. at 177–78. 372. Id. at 191–92. 373. Id. at 190. 374. See Our Lady of Guadalupe Sch. v. Morrissey-Berru, 140 S. Ct. 2049, 2063 (2020); Biel v. St. James Sch. ......
  • ESTABLISHMENT'S POLITICAL PRIORITY TO FREE EXERCISE.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 97 Nbr. 2, January 2022
    • January 1, 2022
    ...See Our Lady of Guadalupe Sch. v. Morrissey-Berru, 140 S. Ct. 2049 (2020); Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. EEOC, 565 U.S. 171 (11) See infra at Part III for a representative selection of scholarship making these claims. (12) Nelson Tebbe, Micah Schwartzman & Rich......
  • The Sword and the Shield: The Benefits of Opinion Letters by Employment and Labor Agencies.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 86 Nbr. 4, September 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    ...Alamo Found. v. Sec'y of Lab., 471 U.S. 290 (1985)). (414) Id. (citing Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. E.E.O.C., 565 U.S. 171 (415) Id. (citing Schleicher v. Salvation Army, 518 F.3d 472 (7th Cir. 2010)). (416) U.S. Dep't of Labor, Wage & Hour Div., Opinion Lette......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT