The Supreme Court stripped civil rights protections from hundreds of thousands of American workers on Wednesday in a sweeping decision that exempts countless religious employers from nondiscrimination statutes. Justice Samuel Alito’s 7–2 majority opinion carved a huge loophole in the employment laws in all 50 states and the federal government, allowing religious employers to discriminate against any worker they deem “ministerial.”
Wednesday’s ruling in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru involves a doctrine called the ministerial exception. This principle, which courts derived from the First Amendment, bars the government from telling a religious institution whom to choose as its faith leaders. Respecting that principle sometimes requires the courts to butt out of employment disputes, even when a worker claims unlawful discrimination.