Press Release

Supreme Court Brief Filed in Groundbreaking Church Employment Case

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Washington, DC.-Becket filed its opening brief in a case that will determine whether churches have the right to choose their religious teachers.Becket, a Washington, DC-based public interest law firm representing Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church, filed its opening brief  in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The case will determine whether churches have the right to hire and fire religious teachers without government interference.

Hosanna-Tabor operates a K-8 school located in Redford, Michigan. Teachers at the school are required to serve as Christian role models, integrate faith into all subjects, and lead students in prayer, worship, and religious study.

In 2005, the church dismissed its fourth-grade teacher, Cheryl Perich, for insubordination and disruptive conduct in violation of church teaching. Perich, who was a “commissioned minister” in the Lutheran church, then sued Hosanna-Tabor for disability discrimination, claiming that her discharge was based on her narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that typically involves excessive daytime sleepiness. Perich ultimately dropped her narcolepsy claim and is now suing the church only for allegedly retaliating against her for making the original narcolepsy claim. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also joined in the lawsuit against Hosanna-Tabor.

The key question in the case is whether the government can force the church to reinstate Perich as a teacher and commissioned minister, or whether the First Amendment instead protects the church’s right to select its religious teachers.

Hosanna-Tabor is a groundbreaking First Amendment case that will impact the right of churches and other religious employers to freely choose the people who will lead their congregations, instruct their faithful, and speak for the church. It may clarify how judges around the country look at the relationship between churches and their ministerial employees. The case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, No. 10-553, will likely be argued to the Court in fall 2011.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at  or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians.