Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, 591 U.S. ___, 2020 WL 3808420 (2020)

Agnes Morrissey-Berru and Kristen Biel worked as elementary school teachers at, respectively, Our Lady of Guadalupe School and St. James School.  Following the termination of her employment, Morrissey-Berru sued her school for age discrimination under the ADEA; following the termination of her employment, Biel alleged her school had discriminated against her because she had requested a leave of absence to obtain breast cancer treatment.  The district court dismissed each teacher’s case based upon the “ministerial exception,” which holds that the First Amendment bars a court from entertaining an employment discrimination claim brought by certain employees of a religious entity against the institution, but the Ninth Circuit reversed.  In this 7-2 opinion, the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit:  “When a school with a religious mission entrusts a teacher with the responsibility of educating and forming students in the faith, judicial intervention into disputes between the school and the teacher threatens the school’s independence in a way that the First Amendment does not allow.”  Cf. Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter & Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, 591 U.S. ___, 2020 WL 3808424 (2020) (federal government had the authority under the Affordable Care Act to promulgate religious and moral exemptions from mandatory contraceptive coverage by employers with sincerely held religious objections).