May 11, 2020

Supreme Court to Clarify—Who Decides Who Teaches: Government or Religious Schools?

By
John Harding
Schools

Everyone is experiencing a new level of uncertainty right now. But if you are running a religious school, or your children attend one, your uneasiness may be compounded by a case being argued today at the Supreme Court.

In the case Our Lady of Guadalupe v. Morrissey-Berru, the Supreme Court is considering an important issue: Does a religious school get to determine who teaches children, or does the government?

We all know how important teachers are to our education. If you ever went from thinking you weren’t a “math person” to acing a geometry test the next semester, you have seen the difference a teacher makes.

For those who place their children in a religious school, faith-based learning is a huge part of the decision. You don’t pay private school tuition for convenience’s sake. You invest in religious education because you want your children to experience something different.

For example, when you attend a Christian school, you don’t just learn 2+2=4. In that same lesson, you may also hear a reminder that God created order. Students come to understand that mathematical laws are not of human creation, but rather are an expression of divine order.

Leaders of religious schools have these unique needs in mind when they decide who should pass the faith on to children. As they decide who will become one of the most important role models in students’ lives, leaders of religious schools consider a teacher’s walk with God, church attendance, personal beliefs, and innumerable other faith-based matters.

School administrations feel the burden when deciding who should teach. They know they are being held accountable by their local church, the students’ parents, the students, the staff, and God. These aren’t easy decisions, but they can only be made by those running the school.

When the government inserts itself and claims that it has control over who teaches at a religious school, that’s a problem. It’s a violation of the First Amendment.

The Constitution requires that government leave teacher employment decisions at religious schools to religious authorities. Because if the government can veto those decisions, it would, at worst, tell the school that it misunderstands its faith or, at best, interfere with the school’s religious mission. Churches, religious schools, and other religious non-profits don’t have to sacrifice their missions or beliefs when they make employment decisions.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court explaining why religious organizations alone should make employment decisions regarding who teaches the faith.

Let’s bring certainty to some uncertain times by upholding our country’s long tradition of religious freedom and by making it clear that the state cannot decide who teaches the faith to the next generation.

Learn more about how ADF prepares and protects Christian schools and other Christian ministries.

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