Attorney General Paxton filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent the government from involving itself in the leadership decisions of religious institutions.
The Oklahoma-led amicus brief is in defense of a faith-based Colorado school facing a lawsuit filed by a former school chaplain. In defiance of the First Amendment and the correct application of a doctrine known as the ministerial exception, the Denver-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit allowed the lawsuit to proceed.
The ministerial exception doctrine protects religious organizations from government interference with its leadership decisions. In situations like these, involving disputes over leadership, doctrine, and spiritual adherence, the First Amendment requires courts to refrain from infringing on the autonomy of religious entities.
However, the Tenth Circuit’s decision creates a dangerous precedent that could force churches and other religious groups into protracted legal battles over doctrine and leadership, granting the government alarming levels of control over religious institutions’ viewpoints and deeply held beliefs.
The amicus brief states: “[T]he Tenth Circuit has now split with other courts in several ways that will cause severe and sustained entanglement between religious institutions and government, as well as infringement on the religious liberty rights of countless individuals and organizations. In the Tenth Circuit, juries will now be tasked with analyzing significant religious questions, courts will be forced to mediate discovery disputes probing religious doctrine and religious intent, and religious adherents and organizations will have no immediate recourse against a wayward trial court decision that threatens to invade some of the most critical aspects of religious practice—the choice of leadership.”
To read the full brief, click here.