A case about the appropriate separation between church and state is taking center stage at the Supreme Court, which is hearing arguments by telephone for a second week because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The case involving two ex-Catholic school teachers and their former employers is one of two the court is tackling Monday, and will center around the so-called ministerial exception to federal employment discriminaton laws, which “ensures that control over religious functions lies with the church, not the state, to the great benefit of both,” the schools have told the court. The schools argue that both women count as ministers, in part because they taught religion among other subjects. Lawyers for Morrissey-Berru and Biel disagree. The other case that was heard on Monday is about whether a large swath of eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains Indian land that belongs to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The issue is whether tribal members can be prosecuted in state court for crimes committed on Indian land, and has been heard before the court before.
The three days of arguments last week might be considered something of a warm-up, a test of how telephone arguments would work and of making audio of arguments live for the first time. The stakes are higher later this week when the cases include high-profile fights over President Donald Trump’s financial records and whether presidential electors have to cast their Electoral College ballots for the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state. Those cases will be heard Tuesday and Wednesday.
Today on AirTalk, we’ll talk with Supreme Court watchers about what came out of Monday’s arguments and break down the four cases that are still scheduled to be heard this week.
With files from the Associated Press
Lawrence Hurley, reporter covering the Supreme Court for Reuters; he tweets @lawrencehurley