Early this year, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided King v. Warner Pacific College. The plaintiff in that case is “of the Hebrew faith.” He sued the defendant, a Christian College, after he unsuccessfully applied to be an adjunct psychology professor. The College has a written policy requiring “each employee to affirm a personal faith in Jesus Christ.” Plaintiff refused to do that. Also, the College intends that “a Christian worldview be integrated into all academic programs.” So, its president refused to hire plaintiff. He sued, alleging this violates Oregon statutes prohibiting employment discrimination based on religion. But the trial court dismissed the case because of Oregon Revised Statutes 659A.006(4). It states that “it is not an unlawful employment practice for a bona fide church or other religious institution to prefer an employee, or an applicant for employment, of one religious sect or persuasion over another.” The court confirmed that this statute “permits religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of religion in employment within their own organizations.” The court also held that under it, “a religious organization may simply choose not to hire as a means of exercising its preference. Accordingly, the College could lawfully ‘prefer’ not to hire a non-Christian applicant.” Continue reading
Unfortunately, many churches and religious schools are facing multi-million dollar lawsuits based on child sex abuse that allegedly occurred, often decades ago, involving ministers, teachers, or other agents. But while the local church may face liability in such cases, national churches often have a complete defense based on principles of agency law. A corporate defendant is typically not vicariously liable for intentional torts like sexual battery of a child. But even in the few states where such vicarious liability is allowed, including Oregon, recent appellate cases restrict that liability to the conduct of paid employees. When a volunteer “nonemployee agent” commits child abuse, Oregon law holds that a corporate defendant is not vicariously liable unless it controlled or later approved the “specific injury causing conduct in particular.” That obviously rarely, if ever, includes child sex abuse. That is the holding of the Oregon Supreme Court in a 2012 case, Eads v. Borman. Continue reading
After much controversy, Justice Brett Kavanaugh was added to the U.S. Supreme Court this fall to replace Justice Kennedy, who retired. This is good news for supporters of (1) religious liberty; (2) the right to life; and (3) opponents of judicial activism, often called “legislating from the bench.”
The nine-member Court now consists of a majority of 5 conservative Justices appointed by Republican presidents.
This article will not delve into the 1980s sexual assault allegations against Justice Kavanaugh. Readers have different views on that issue. Rather, the focus here is on how the newly configured Supreme Court will affect the rights and interests of religious people and religious institutions.
John Yoo, a University of California at Berkeley Law School professor who attended Yale Law School with Justice Kavanaugh, recently wrote in The National Review that with “a fifth conservative justice joining Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, for the first time in about eight decades, the country may have a truly conservative Supreme Court.” Legal commentator Rich Logis, writing for The Federalist this fall, stated: “President Trump is reforming the Supreme Court to how the Founders envisioned it.” Continue reading
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether to exercise its discretion to accept the following four religious liberty cases for review. In the law, this is called a “petition for certiorari.” If at least four of the nine Justices agree to accept one or more of these cases, they will be decided by the full Court in the 2018-2019 term.
Patterson v. Walgreen Co. involves a Walgreens training instructor in Florida whose Seventhday Adventist religious beliefs do not permit him to work on Saturdays. He was fired by Walgreens after he refused to conduct an emergency work session on a Saturday. A federal appellate court, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals based in Atlanta, ruled in favor of Walgreens on the ground that it had provided a “reasonable accommodation” by offering him other positions within the company. The church stated in a press release: “One of the Supreme Court’s primary jobs is to resolve these types of conflicts. The Supreme Court has not addressed the issues in this case since 1977 and 1986. With more than a 30-year silence on these issues and disagreements among lower courts, the Supreme Court is more likely to take his case.” Continue reading