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Church autonomy

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Civil Rights and Discrimination

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Religion's Footnote Four: Church Autonomy As Arbitration, Michael A. Helfand Dec 2012

Religion's Footnote Four: Church Autonomy As Arbitration, Michael A. Helfand

Michael A Helfand

While the Supreme Court’s decision in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC has been hailed as an unequivocal victory for religious liberty, the Court’s holding in footnote four – that the ministerial exception is an affirmative defense and not a jurisdictional bar – undermines decades of conventional thinking about the relationship between church and state. For some time, a wide range of scholars had conceptualized the relationship between religious institutions and civil courts as “jurisdictional” – that is, scholars converged on the view that the religion clauses deprived courts of subject-matter jurisdiction over religious claims. In turn, courts could not adjudicate religious disputes …