The First Amendment Goes Both Ways
Progressives have long championed the notional wall separating church and state in America, and rightly so. The lack of religious tests for public office; the freedom to worship (or not) as one pleases; the prohibition on teacher-led prayer in school — all these are valuable bulwarks against encroaching theocracy.
But the First Amendment is not a one-way street — as the Supreme Court unanimously reaffirmed yesterday, when it said churches have the right to hire and fire ministers according to their own criteria. The government cannot tell religious institutions who qualifies as a minister and who doesn’t, what is a valid employment decision and what is not.
Other considerations, such as the equal-opportunity employment rules that were at issue in Hosanna-Tabor, are important. But they do not trump the First Amendment.
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