Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru | St. James School v. Biel
Description: Two Catholic schools in California were sued after choosing not to renew the contracts of teachers, both of whom had many religious duties. The schools claim they have the constitutionally protected freedom to determine who can teach the faith at their institutions.
High court affirms freedom of religious schools to determine who teaches their faith
“As the Supreme Court has made clear in the past and has now made clear again, the First Amendment bars the government from interfering with a religious group’s employment decisions regarding its ministers. The court’s decision today clears up disagreements in the lower courts about the right way to define ‘minister,’ concluding that any definition should be primarily based on the religious functions an employee is asked to perform as defined by those qualified to make that judgment: the religious groups who know their faith best. In so doing, the court has respected the autonomy of faith-based schools and prevented the government from interfering with the internal operations and autonomy of religious organizations. In other words, the court has ruled in accordance with one of the primary purposes of the First Amendment.”
ADF, together with Troutman Sanders, one of the country’s largest and most respected law firms, filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the high court on behalf of several Christian education associations and a religious university in support of the Catholic schools in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom. Bursch has argued 12 U.S. Supreme Court cases and more than 30 state supreme court cases since 2011, and a recent study concluded that among all frequent Supreme Court advocates who did not work for the federal government, he had the 3rd highest success rate for persuading justices to adopt his legal position. Bursch served as solicitor general for the state of Michigan from 2011-2013. He has argued multiple Michigan Supreme Court cases in eight of the last ten terms and has successfully litigated hundreds of matters nationwide, including six with at least $1 billion at stake. As part of his private firm, Bursch Law PLLC, he has represented Fortune 500 companies, foreign and domestic governments, top public officials, and industry associations in high-profile cases, primarily on appeal. He received his J.D. magna cum laude in 1997 from the University of Minnesota Law School and is admitted to practice in numerous federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.