Posts Tagged ‘minister’

Government Control of Church Schools

March 19, 2010

A church school in Redford, Michigan was dealt a blow to its independence from government control by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 9, 2010.  Hosanna-Tabor is affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Misosouri Synod, and operates a church and school.  All the school teachers lead weekly chapel services, teach a 30 minute religion class four days per week, lead prayer three times per day, and teach a morning devotional.  In fact, most of the teachers are commissioned as ministers.

Courts have long recognized the “ministerial exception,” which prohibits courts from getting involved in the relationship between a religious organization and its ministers.  This independence (often referred to as “church autonomy”) from government control is considered vital because ministers are recognized by the law as the lifeblood of the church.

While the Sixth Circuit upheld this principle in EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church, it failed to apply it because it found the teacher in question was not really a minister.  At bottom, the court said she wasn’t a minister because she spent 6 hours a day teaching secular subjects like math, social studies, and music.  Only an hour or so was spent on exclusively religious instruction.

The court failed to recognize something even Christians struggle with – our biblical worldview and Christian principles affect all aspects of our lives.  That certainly includes how we teach our children to interpret music, and interact socially.  It even applies to math, as demonstrated by the great mathematician, Sir Isaac Newton (even though his Christian views certainly were not orthodox).

Apparently, Hossana-Tabor should have been clearer about how its teachers communicate the church’s theology in all subjects.  Hopefully it can do so at trial, since the case has been sent back down to the lower court.

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