The Craig Fahle Show

Michigan Case Foreshadowed Supreme Court Hobby Lobby Decision

Wednesday, July 29,2013

photo courtesy Chicago Tribune James Roach, an employment attorney with the Vercruysse Murray firm in Bingham Farms represented an elementary teacher at a Lutheran school who was prohibited from returning to work after a six-month disability leave. When she threatened to sue, she was fired. The school said she had violated religious tenets: “Christians don’t sue Christians,” their reasoning went.

Three years ago James Roach was part of the team that argued her case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. She lost, and court watchers say the case signaled how the justices would handle future disputes involving the religion of employers balanced against civil rights of employees like the recent Hobby Lobby decision.

Roach joins Craig Fahle to discuss how the teacher case signaled the Hobby Lobby decision and what the court’s decisions in favor of “religious freedoms” mean to individual rights.

Two relevant questions were raised in the teacher’s case: 1) Does the U.S. Constitution's prohibition from governmental interference in the establishment and free exercise of religion extend to a religious organization's authority as an employer? 2) To what extent, if at all, should a religious institution be exempt from federal laws such as the Civil Rights Act and the American with Disabilities Act when operating the "business" of a school, a hospital, a university or a even church-affiliated resale store?