After going to the mats to protect the religious freedoms of Muslims, even when their demands went far beyond the realm of reason, the DOJ took a u-turn in October 2011 when they went after Christians at a small church in Redford, Michigan accusing them of discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The case revolved around Cheryl Perich, an educator at Hosanna-TaborChurch who “taught religious classes, led students in prayer and incorporated religious teachings into secular subjects like math, science, social studies and art.” After becoming ill and diagnosed with narcolepsy in 2004 she was replaced by a substitute teacher. Perich’s employment was terminated because of concern that she was unable to perform her duties. “Perich demanded she be reinstated — and threatened to sue the school if she wasn’t. It was that threat of a lawsuit — not Perich’s narcolepsy — that led the congregation to “rescind her call” (i.e. fire her). Apparently, it’s against church teaching to take an internal dispute of that sort to the secular courts.”
In a secular setting this might mean an instant high dollar lawsuit, but because the defendant was a minister the church was protected by the “ministerial exemption” that shields religious institutions from many employment laws. A janitor at the school would have been covered by federal regulations, but it isn’t the place of the government to regulate the hiring and firing practices for religious teachers.
Rather than pursue a limited agenda that would have addressed her specific grievances, the DOJ went before the Supreme Court with the intention to abolish a cornerstone of the separation between church and state. They had the temerity to argue “for tossing out the [ministerial] exemption altogether and bringing the full weight of federal employment and anti-discrimination law to bear on religious institutions.”
Similar lawsuits have been pursued for decades, and all have been struck down by the courts as an unreasonable infringement on church rights. Thankfully the Supreme Court agreed when they ruled in a unanimous decision “Free Exercise Clause prevents (the government) from interfering with the freedom of religious groups to select their own.”