The law
9:18 am
Thu January 12, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Michigan church school teacher

A Michigan woman who taught at a religious school has lost her discrimination claim at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cheryl Perich  taught math, social studies and other classes at Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford. She also taught a religion class and sometimes led prayers.

When Perich tried to return after medical leave in 2004, she was told a substitute teacher had been hired to finish the school year. She argued, and was fired for insubordination.

So Perich sued, claiming protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Supreme Court ruled that because she taught religion, Perich could be considered a “minister” and  was therefore exempt from the law.

Bloomfield Hills civil rights and employment discrimination attorney Deborah Gordon has been watching the case and has mixed feelings about the ruling.

"I appreciate the fact that the justices took the position that freedom of religion is to be given a lot of deference," Gordon says.

But she says some people who work in a religious institution will be unprotected.

"They're saying once you're on the side of talking about religion in an educational institution, the rest of the laws go down the drain," Gordon says.

The Supreme Court decision was unanimous.