“One thing that makes [Justice Kennedy] really passionate, is will people know whether they can broadcast something,” Mr. Elwood said. “If it is a close question whether you can broadcast Schindler’s List because there are naked people in concentration camps, that is going to give him a lot of heartburn.”
In an important case involving the First Amendment’s separation of church and state, the justices will consider whether a former teacher at a Lutheran elementary school can sue the church-run school for alleged disability discrimination and retaliation.
School officials argue that the lawsuit is barred under the “ministerial exception,” a legal doctrine which blocks employment-related lawsuits against religious organizations filed by employees who perform important religious functions.
The ministerial exception is designed to insulate religious groups from interference and second-guessing by judges and others about how the group is carrying out its religious mission. It applies to pastors, priests, and rabbis.
The issue in the Lutheran school case is whether it also applies to a teacher who spent most of her day presenting a secular curriculum to her students, but who also was a “commissioned minister” who taught religious classes and led the children in prayer.