Jewish School Need Not Heed State Commisison

     (CN) – Massachusetts officials cannot force a religious school run by a conservative Jewish temple to rehire an older teacher, the state’s high court ruled.
     Temple Emanuel of Newton runs the Rabbi Albert I. Gordon Religious School, an afterschool and Sunday program for kindergarten through seventh grade. Gaye Hilsenrath taught there part-time for 24 years.
     In an effort to cut the number of teachers from 20 to 12, Temple Emanuel decided not to renew Hilsenrath’s contract.
     After Hilsenrath filed age-discrimination charges with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in 2008, the commission ordered the temple to rehire the teacher within 21 days.
     The temple then sued the commission in Superior Court, claiming that the First Amendment prohibits the commission from exercising jurisdiction over Hilsenrath’s claims. A judge ruled for the temple, and the Supreme Judicial Court intervened on appeal. It affirmed Tuesday.
     “We conclude that the judge should have abstained from deciding whether the ministerial exception barred Hilsenrath’s discrimination claim until the commission entered a final decision,” Judge Ralph Gants wrote for the seven-member panel.
     “Where a school’s sole mission is to serve as a religious school, the state should not intrude on a religious group’s decision as to who should (and should not) teach its religion to the children of its members,” he added (parentheses in original).

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