July 8, 2020

Manisha Sunil, West End Strategy Team; (202) 417-0171 

SCOTUS Decisions on Ministerial Exception, Contraception Exemptions Erode Religious Freedom Rights

WASHINGTON — Today, the Supreme Court issued two consequential decisions that erode true religious freedom rights for all. Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey Berru distorts the ministerial exception, shielding religious schools from workplace discrimination suits. Likewise, Trump v. Pennsylvania empowers employers to meddle in the personal healthcare decisions of workers and their families under the guise of religious freedom.

Katy Joseph, director of policy & advocacy at Interfaith Alliance, condemned both decisions, stating:

“Today, the Supreme Court issued two decisions causing irreparable harm to the First Amendment right of religious freedom. Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey Berru distorts the ministerial exception beyond recognition, empowering private religious schools to discriminate against staff members and creating a separate set of rules for religious and secular institutions.

An educator grappling with a cancer diagnosis or nearing the age of retirement deserves the same workplace protections regardless of the type of school she works for. This is why Interfaith Alliance joined allies in an amicus brief urging the court to clarify and limit the ministerial exception to ensure that employees of religious schools remain protected under workplace nondiscrimination laws. Most religious schools may not discriminate, but those who do now have carte blanche to break the law under the guise of religious freedom. 

Further, in today’s decision in Trump v. Pennsylvania, the Court failed to protect millions of workers, students, and their families by allowing employers to interfere with reproductive healthcare decisions. Choosing whether and when to use birth control are deeply personal and for many people, informed by religious and moral conviction. Making healthcare decisions based on your personal beliefs and needs is a matter of religious freedom — and no one’s business but your own.

“Both decisions are the result of a conservative campaign to redefine religious freedom into a sword, not a shield, to be wielded against those who live or believe differently. The First Amendment of our constitution protects every American’s ability to believe as we choose, ensuring no one person is forcibly subject to the beliefs of another. The government may not act as the enforcer either, prohibiting the establishment of a state religion and banning policies that offer preferential treatment to religious institutions not available to their secular peers. This measure of fairness, which has enabled diverse religious and nonreligious communities to flourish within the United States for centuries, has lost much of its meaning as the Trump Administration and its allies carve out ever greater exceptions for religious groups.

If you would like to speak with Katy Joseph further, please contact Manisha Sunil at


Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit