Editor's Note: This essay is the first in a five-part series on Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, a major religion case currently pending in the Supreme Court. For the first time, the Court may squarely address the ministerial exception, a controversial doctrine that grants religious organizations immunity from employment discrimination suits by ministers, even where the discrimination is not religiously required. Our contributors, representing both sides of the scholarly debate, discuss the important doctrinal and policy implications of this landmark case.
The question presented in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC is whether or not a schoolteacher should be considered a minister. Although the school teacher in this case, Cheryl Perich, began her employment as a lay teacher, she soon became a called teacher with the title "commissioned minister." She taught a religion class four times a week and led her class in daily prayers. During the bulk of her workday, however, Perich taught math, reading, English, social studies, science, gym, art, and music to third and fourth graders.