Christian school's lawsuit may test court ruling

By Linda Deutsch

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 29 2013 11:38 p.m. MST

LOS ANGELES — A lawsuit by a Southern California Christian school against two former teachers who refused to provide proof of their faith could pose one of the first court tests of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on religious freedom.

A legal expert said last year's ruling that religious workers can't sue for job discrimination never specified whether that includes teachers at religious schools.

Calvary Chapel of Thousand Oaks purchased Little Oaks School in 2009, and leaders told employees last year that they would need to provide a statement of faith and a reference from a pastor to renew their contracts.

The two teachers lost their jobs after refusing to provide the documents. After they threatened litigation, school leaders filed their own lawsuit in federal court in Ventura.

James A. Sonne, director of the Religious Liberty Clinic and a lecturer in law at Stanford University Law School, noted that the dispute comes just a year after the high court's ruling in the case of the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Redford, Mich., which holds that religious workers can't sue for job discrimination.

The court refused to specify in that ruling what constituted a religious worker, leaving teachers uncertain of their status under the law.

Sonne said the question remains whether teachers are performing "ministerial duties."

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