The case involves a former teacher at Lutheran school, who along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is pushing a claim that a Lutheran congregation should be forced to restore her ministry position.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State and American Atheists, Inc. have filed briefs siding with the Obama administration against the church.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the American Center for Law and Justice are among those who have filed briefs supporting the Lutherans.
In 1999, the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford, Mich., hired Cheryl Perich to be a lay teacher on a one-year contract in its kindergarten.
The next year, Perich became a "called" teacher at the school after she became a commissioned minister in the church.
"To receive a call, a candidate must be selected by a local church congregation," said a brief the church submitted to the Supreme Court that was prepared by lawyers at the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty and Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia Law School.
"At Hosanna-Tabor, the school board typically presents a choice of candidates to the congregation, and after prayerfully considering the candidates, the congregation extends a call via congregational vote," the brief said. "Once the call has been accepted, the candidate is installed in office via the public rite of 'commissioning,' and is recognized as a 'Minister of Religion, Commissioned' -- also known as a 'commissioned minister.'"
As a minister in the school, Perich taught religious classes, led students in prayer and performed other religious tasks. She was also expected to integrate the teaching of the Lutheran faith into all so-called "secular" classes, including math, science, social studies and art.
In 2004, Perich was diagnosed with narcolepsy and was unable to teach the fall semester. In January 2005, when she could not return, the school hired another teacher to take her place during the spring.
Later that month, according to a brief filed by the Justice Department's Office of the Solicitor General, Perich informed the school's principal, Stacey Hoeft, via email that she would be able to return to work the following month.
The principal informed her they had already hired a replacement teacher for the rest of the year.
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