Narcolepsy is a nervous system disorder in which the person will suddenly go to sleep. A victim may be walking along the side walk and collapse in sleep.
Ms Cheryl Perich has narcolepsy. She also had a teaching position at Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School. In June of 2004, Ms Perich left her position during her diagnosis. In February of 2005 she wanted the teaching position back, but the school had filled it. Note the dates, June is the end of the school year and February is well after the start of the school year.
Ms Perich sued.
The church refused to rehire her, stating her position had been filled.
The church's position is the matter is protected by the First Amendment's free exercise of religion doctrine. A derivative doctrine, called the ministerial doctrine, explains the right of church autonomy in choice of staff thus: The courts are forbidden to determine cases “involving the employment relationship between a religious institution and its ministerial employees.”
The Supreme Court heard the case Wednesday.
The Obama administration's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is taking Perich side. The EEOC implicitly stated the freedom of religion does not apply. What is at issue, they say, is Ms Perich's First Amendment right to freely associate.
"What?" the Supreme Court Justices said in unison.
The Obama Administration questions who should decide religious matters, the church or the government. Implicit the Administration view is the notion only government can decide whether government should be deciding.
The Obama Administration position, if accepted by the court, would practically eliminate freedom of religion in the United States. If the government wins, a church could be forced into hiring anyone for any position. A church could no longer "discriminate" between a believer and a circus sex act for an vacant pastor position.
The case is Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (10-553). A decision is expected by June.
There is more to this -- there always is. Here are two views: One from the Big Government side Slate From other from the religious side Jewish World Review