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Calif. Christian School’s Demand For Proof Of Faith Could Test Religious Liberty Ruling

Publication Date: 
January 29, 2013
Source: 
The Washington Post
Author: 
Associated Press

James Sonne, director of the Religious Liberty Clinic, spoke with the Associated Press on the subject of whether religious workers can sue for job discrimination and if that includes teachers at religious schools. 

A lawsuit by a Southern California Christian school against two former teachers who refused to provide proof of their faith could pose one of the first court tests of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on religious freedom.

A legal expert said last year’s ruling that religious workers can't sue for job discrimination never specified whether that includes teachers at religious schools.

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James A. Sonne, director of the Religious Liberty Clinic and a lecturer in law at Stanford University Law School, noted that the dispute comes just a year after the high court's ruling in the case of the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Redford, Mich., which holds that religious workers can't sue for job discrimination.

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Sonne said the question remains whether teachers are performing "ministerial duties."

"Churches have First Amendment rights to choose their ministers," Sonne said. "The question is how does that apply outside the liturgical setting? The area where that will be played out is in the religious school context."

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Sonne said a constitutional ruling under federal law would most likely trump a state provision, which may be the reason the church filed in federal court.