Contra Gibson on Hosanna-Tabor

by Michael Sean Winters

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My colleague and friend David Gibson has a post up at Commonweal about the Supreme Court's decision in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC. The title of the post captures Gibson's mood: "High court: Religions are Free to be Jerks."

Of course, Gibson acknowledges that "The ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC is clearly the right one (and it seems to leave some definitions and distinctions to a future ruling, which would be appropriate, I think)." But, he then goes on to fret about the consequences of the ruling.

There was one question, and one question only, before the court: What right does the government have to tell a church who it can and cannot hire as a minister? The answer is: None. If the consequence is that some religions will hire jerks, or, in the case before the court, refuse to reinstate an employee who threatened legal action prohibited by that Church's internal rules, it is up to that religious body itself, not the government, to decide whether they are fulfilling the spirit of their faith. Nor did the court extend carte blanche, leaving open the possibility that a church could be sued for tortious conduct for example.

Sometimes issues are complex and cloudy. Other times, writers can becloud an issue that is perfectly clear. I fear that it is this latter course that Gibson has chosen.

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