Court to decide if teacher can sue church school

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court will decide whether a teacher at a church-run school is a religious or secular worker when it comes to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The high court recently agreed to hear an appeal from Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Redford, Mich.

Cheryl Perich, a teacher and commissioned minister, got sick in 2004 but tried to return to work from disability leave despite being diagnosed with narcolepsy. She taught third and fourth graders

The school said she couldn't return because they had hired a substitute for that year. They fired her after she showed up anyway and threatened to sue to get her job back.

Perich complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued the church.

The church wanted the case thrown out. Courts have recognized a "ministerial exception" to the ADA which prevents government involvement in the employee-employer relationship between churches and ministerial employees.

But the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said Perich's job as a teacher was secular, not religious, so the exception blocking the lawsuit didn't count. The church wants that decision overturned.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments later this year.

The case is Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 10-553.

Published: Wed, Mar 30, 2011