Rick Warren Demands The Freedom To Hurt People. (How a Woman Became A Minister In The LCMS)

A post on homosexuality, LGBT, lesbian and gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia.

Have you noticed? *Religious Freedom* is getting a lot of airplay lately.


Is the free exercise of religion under threat? The churches seem to think so . But in the recent cases I have seem in both America and Australia it seems to be about something else entirely.  It seems to be about the churches fight to protect their long standing practise of treating their employees really badly.

I noticed it in the discussion regarding the proposed amendments to Australian Federal Anti-Discrimination laws. I’ve already blogged on that here.

The short version… anti-discrimination laws prevent people in positions of power (employers) from discriminating against those who are powerless and vulnerable (employees) on the grounds of age, religion or sexual orientation.

These protecting laws have specific exemptions built in for religious organisations. These groups are allowed to discriminate against their employees because of their  *religious sensitivities*.  So, gay teachers in the Lutheran Education system who do the healthy thing, come out and enter into a relationship can be pretty sure that  they would be sacked or that their career would be in the toilet. Any other employer is not allowed to treat their employees that way.

When the Government announced that they were looking at amending the laws The churches mobilised and campaigned to ensure that the religious exemptions remained in place so that they can continue to hurt their employees with impunity.

Of course, that’s not how they framed it. They called it *defending their religious freedoms*.


Last week mega church Pastor Rick Warren participated in a 90 minute discussion on religious freedoms. 1 hour in I heard this little gem. It beautifully illustrates what this is really all about.

So, The poor Lutheran Church simply wanted to exercise their religious freedom to employ who they want to employ. And the *administration* (meaning Obama-who-wants-to-take-your-guns-and-your-freedoms)  *went after them*.  Thank God for the Supreme Court who slapped Obama down and voted 9/0 in favour of the Church and religious freedom.


Well, No. Not one little bit.

In fact, Warren*s one sentence description of what happened is so inaccurate as to constitute a lie.

I am quite familiar with the case involving HosannaTabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School. I followed it as it unfolded. Quite frankly, I am  amazed that Rick Warren use it as an example.

Heres what happened. (Check it out on the  Supreme Court Syllabus)

Cheryl Perich a teacher at Hosanna- Tabor Lutheran School developed narcolepsy and began the 2004–2005 school year on disability leave. She was assured by the principal that her job would be there when she recovered.  In January 2005, she notified the school principal that she would be able to report to work in February. However the school had already obtained a replacement teacher and asked for Perich*s  resignation. Perich obtained legal advice that the school had acted unlawfully. The church deemed the fact that she obtained legal advice *insubordinate and disruptive behaviour* and sacked her.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took up Perich*s case and bought suit against the Church on her behalf. As pointed out by the Northwestern University Law Review she probably should have won what in any normal circumstances would have been an open and shut case against an employer who had illegally mistreated an employee. In fact, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found in favour of Perich and the EEOC.

But, nothing is ever  *normal circumstances* when it comes to the church and civil rights.

In addition to teaching secular subjects, Perich taught a religion class, led her students in daily prayer and devotional exercises, and took her students to a weekly school-wide chapel service.  Because of this, Hosanna-Tabor Church invoked what is known as the “Ministerial Exception”. This exception determines that according to the First Amendment the state cannot interfere with the employment relationship between a religious institution and one of its ministers.

The Supreme Court found in favour of the church under the Ministerial Exception clause. Because the church/ school deemed Perich to be a Minister of Religion the normal rules of  industrial relations regarding discrimination and  unfair dismissal did not apply. The Church were free to sack her.

Even though it is clearly unfair and just plain mean, if you are employed as a minister of the church then they can legally treat you like crap. Why? Well, because they are a church and if you try to make the church accountable for how they treat people then they cry foul, cite the First Amendment and demand their religious freedoms.

Funny. Right?

Do you wanna know what is really funny about all of this?

The Hosanna Tabor Lutheran Church and School belongs to the Missouri Synod Of the Lutheran Church. This is a very conservative arm of the Lutheran Church worldwide. (Sadly, The Lutheran Church of Australia has been slouching closer and closer to this sect like group over the last couple of decades.)

OK. Here is the funny bit.

Unlike most of the Lutheran Churches across the Northern Hemisphere the Missouri Synod refuse to allow women to be ordained.  They are not allowed to lead  congregational worship, preach or  administer the sacraments.  Like the LCA they are very strong in their anti-women stand. They believe that the clear word of God precludes women from acting as ministers.

They believe it…right up to the moment when someone is about to sue their hypocritical arses and then they suddenly claim the Ministerial Exception clause for a woman primary school teacher.


Or…perhaps we should cry.

Anyway….Pastor Warren… 3 things

1. You do have the right to believe what you believe and even to act on those beliefs. But when you hurt people in the exercise of that right , as the Lutheran Church did in the case that you cite, then that  sucks… even if  SCOTUS  does vote 9/0 to give you that power.

2. The Obama Administration had nothing to do with this case. They did not *instruct the justice department to go after them*  as you claimed. It suited your argument to say so but it was a lie non-the-less and you dishonoured yourself in the lie.

3. You said that the worst thing that could happen would be for Religious Liberty to become a code word for either the conservatives or the liberals. But there is something worse. It’s when Religious Liberty becomes a code word for bullying and harassment. Its when the church uses its considerable power to hurt their employees, those who are supposed to be under their care.