This is what happened when Mary Rosati, a nun-in-training, was diagnosed with breast cancer and took her immediate supervisor and the mother superior to visit her doctor:
After the doctor explained her treatment options for breast cancer, the complaint continued, the mother superior announced: “We will have to let her go. I don’t think we can take care of her.” Some months later Ms. Rosati was told that the mother superior and the order’s governing council had decided to dismiss her after concluding that “she was not called to our way of life,” according to the complaint. Along with her occupation and her home, she lost her health insuranceSounds like a field day for the courts. Except that, as described in a very long New York Times article today, it's totally legal because
the order’s decision to dismiss her “was an ecclesiastical decision” that was “beyond the reach of the court” because “the First Amendment requires churches to be free from government interference in matters of church governance and administration.”And it also includes most employee lawsuits, from laws protecting pensions and providing unemployment benefits, and laws that give employees the right to form unions to negotiate with their employers.
Legislators and regulators are not the only people in government who have drafted special rules for religious organizations. Judges, too, have carved out or preserved safe havens that shield religious employers of all faiths from most employee lawsuits, from laws protecting pensions and providing unemployment benefits, and from laws that give employees the right to form unions to negotiate with their employers.
Isn't that special? Part III tomorrow. Part I yesterday revealed how religious institutions escape all kinds of regulations from child care centers to the land use regulations (as well as property tax and full tax audits.)