Christian School Beats Back Attacks on Their Right to Hire and Fire According to Christian Faith

It is strange that we have to explain this, but in our day and time we do. You should be a Christian to be a teacher at a Christian school. If you are going to teach children Christian values and the sciences from a Biblical perspective, you should actually have Christian values and a Biblical perspective. And for once in a long while, there is a federal judge who agrees.

Christian News reports:

A Christian school in California has won a complicated legal battle regarding two teachers who sued the school after their contracts weren’t renewed as they refused to provide proof of their Christian faith.

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Now, this is what happened. Calvary Chapel of Thousand Oaks, California purchased an elementary school in 2009. Then, in 2012, they informed the teachers that they would be required to confirm their faith and commitment to Christ. They would do this by giving a brief testimony of their conversion and providing a pastoral confirmation to your church attendance. Two teachers refused to provide these requirements.

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Christian News reports the result:

Because the women would not obtain the required pastoral reference as a part of the renewal process, they were both dismissed from their jobs. One of the teachers had been hired prior to Calvary Chapel’s purchasing of the facility.

The women then threatened to sue the school after being fired, stating that they were being discriminated against.

Now, I understand that one of the ladies was a teacher at the school before it was owned and operated by a church. She was given ample time. She was allowed to teach at the school for three years after the purchase of the school without any change in policy. It seems that the church and school were more than gracious to these teachers. But their lawyer disagreed.

They did not believe they should be required to obtain a pastoral reference in order to continue their employment,” Dawn Coulson, attorney for the teachers, wrote in a letter to officials at Calvary Chapel.

In court, Coulson argued that because the organization was not set up as a non-profit entity, although it is owned by a church, it should not be permitted to require teachers to submit pastoral references.

Here is the rub for churches. They have bought into this idea of 501C-3 designation. According to the Constitution, tax exemption should already be our right. If we are a Church, we are already tax exempt. This attorney tried to use this against the school. It is not our tax status that makes us a Christian organization; it is our connection to Christ. But I digress.

Judge Henry Walsh disagreed with Coulson’s argument.

“[T]he ministerial exception is constitutionally compelled and arises out of the Establishment and Free exercise clauses of the First Amendment,” he wrote. “It is based on the concept that secular courts will not attempt to right wrongs related to hiring, firing, discipline or administration of clergy. It extends to church related institutions which have a substantial religious character, which includes church-related schools.”

It should be within the rights of any Christian organization to ensure the purity of its message, whether that message is to children in an educational setting or from the pulpit. I am praising God that at least on this issue the court got it right. We should be encouraged. God promises us victory, but we must have faith and stand our ground, and we must overcome evil with good.


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