On January 11, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision interpreting the bounds of the “ministerial exception” to civil rights claims. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2012). Lower courts have generally held that the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment bar discrimination suits brought by ministers against churches. The question in Hosanna-Tabor was whether the ministerial exception applied not simply to religious leaders, but also to a teacher at a religious elementary school.
Cheryl Perich was a Called Teacher and designated as a commissioned minister. “Called” teachers are regarded as having been called to their vocation by God. She taught secular subjects and a religion class, led her students in daily prayer and devotional exercises, took her students to a weekly school-wide chapel service, and led the chapel service twice a year.