Our country has long grappled with whether and to what extent any government benefits or other favor may be accorded to private schools, especially religious grade schools. This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court issued another landmark decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, validating a state school tax credit program that benefits religious and non-religious schools alike by striking down the Montana State Constitution’s prohibition on any state aid to a school controlled by a “church, sect, or denomination.”
The Supreme Court of the United States has significantly broadened the scope of legal protections for religious employers against employment-related claims. The Court’s July 8, 2020 decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe Sch. Morrissey-Berru St. James Sch. v. Biel, clarifies and broadens the so-called “ministerial exception,” which forbids or excepts courts from intervening in employment-related disputes involving workers engaged in religious activities. This important legal protection promotes First Amendment religious freedom rights by avoiding secular courts’ interference with employment decisions that may involve religious aspects.
Is it time to re-open houses of worship for in-person religious services, despite the continued coronavirus pandemic? This question has sparked controversy and significant accompanying safety concerns against an ever-changing array of government orders and religious liberty lawsuits. How and when will in-person religious gatherings be safe again? Should houses of worship wait indefinitely to conduct in-person worship services? Or should they reengage with religious services – now, and perhaps step by step with specific safety measures?