The first Monday in October

Today marks the beginning of the Supreme Court’s 2011-2012 term, and there are several interesting cases on the Court’s docket.  Obviously many are focused on the issue of the constitutionality of Obamacare, but, there are other matters involving constitutional interpretation that should present some lively arguments.

On Wednesday, the Court will hear arguments in Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC, a case presenting a First Amendment Freedom of Religion issue.  Here are the facts of that case.

Cheryl Perish was a teacher at the church run grade school at Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church in Michigan.  This position is a congregationally approved position, a “calling”.  Ms. Perish has been suffering from narcoleptic symptoms since 2004.  The church decided to release her from her “calling” and Ms. Perish threatened to sue the church for denying her rights under the American Disabilities Act.  The church pointed out that civil lawsuits within the church violated Lutheran teachings, and ultimately voted to rescind her call.  And so, Ms. Perish filed suit claiming that the church retaliated against her for asserting her rights under the ADA.

The case presents the question of whether there is a “ministerial exemption” which protects religious organizations from government “meddling” concerning issues related to the employment of religious workers.  The “exemption” has long been recognized by the courts, but, in a brief filed by the Department of Justice, it is argued that the exemption applies only to the clergy, not to those who, like Ms. Perish, teach religion in a religious school.

One of the more interesting parts of this case is that the church has received “amicus” support in briefs filed by other Christian faiths, the Mormon faith, the Jewish faith, the Hindu faith, the Muslim faith, and a host of others.

Another case that will be argued is one involving the Fourth Amendment and the question of what is an unreasonable search and seizure.  In this case, the Court will be asked to decide whether the police can install an electronic tracking device on a vehicle without first obtaining a search warrant.  I have not read the briefs, but will assume that the issue goes something like this:  the police would not need a search warrant to physically follow a vehicle if the police had reason to believe the occupants were “up to something”, so, is a warrant needed to do virtually the same thing only this time by electronic means?

Sorry for the length of this post…and this deals with only two of the hundreds of cases that will be considered by the Court this term.

I’ll keep you posted.


6 replies
  1. Gary J
    Gary J says:

    ?It is not long SOS. It is informative. It is important. I and many others are interested in these matters as out courts are changing and have changed. If we don’t keep track of what is going on there they may just fall in lockstep with the administration. Some of us still have to pull hard and don’t research these matters enough so you should post these things. I thank you.

  2. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    SOS, I could read your posts all day long, so don’t stop.? I am especially interested in the case of police using electronic tracking device without a search warrant.? IMHO this needs to be done only if they suspect someone of being a terrorist. Otherwise sad to say, but it could be abused by a rogue policeman for his own devices.? Please,? this is no slam on police, I have the highest regard for them, but this is a huge temptation for someone in an emotional spin, in a high stress job. An invasion of privacy is of highest importance to me.

  3. RoBrDona
    RoBrDona says:

    I too value your posts SOS – don’t stop for anything. One that interests me is the use of race quotas by university admissions departments. I will admit to being most interested?to see if they will take on Obamacare on this docket due to its proximity to the election … the O could find himself in a world of hurt if major portions are struck down. Paradoxically, if it is not, it could provide serious impetus for Republicans to vote in force to make sure that any future vacancies are filled by a Republican. I think we only lose if they don’t hear it this session. ???

  4. Political Entropy
    Political Entropy says:

    The 4th Amendment case seems really interesting to me. Apple and Google already track us (through our “agreement” of course), and it would be interesting (er…frightening?) to see if something in the Constitution does something similar.

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