WASHINGTON, DC -- The U.S. Supreme Court agreed last December to hear a religious liberty case that would allow religious exemptions from discrimination.
The justices are being asked to weigh in on whether two Catholic schools are exempt from employment discrimination suits brought by former teachers.
The new cases, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St.James School v. Biel, were consolidated because both schools are claiming immunity under the ministerial exception.
Agnes Morrissey-Berru sued the Our Lady of Guadalupe School for age discrimination when her contract to teach was not renewed and Kristen Biel sued St. James School after she claimed the school did not renew her contract after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Federal trial judges dismissed both cases, citing the ministerial exception protected the schools, but the Unites States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed those decisions and allowed the cases to proceed.
The ministerial exception is a First Amendment principle that bars lawsuits by workers who are considered "ministers" due to the religious nature of their work. The teachers in both lawsuits claim that although their jobs did include religious curricula, they should not be considered ministers.