(SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE) -- Kristen Biel, a fifth-grade Catholic school teacher in California, was fired after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed time off for chemotherapy. A federal judge dismissed her discrimination suit, saying Biel, whose everyday curriculum included religious instruction, was effectively a minister who was constitutionally barred from suing the church.
On Monday, a federal appeals court in San Francisco reinstated Biel’s suit and said teaching religion, among other subjects, in a religious school doesn’t necessarily make someone a minister.
The Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom allows religious organization to choose leaders and representatives of their faith, “but it does not provide carte blanche to disregard antidiscrimination laws when it comes to other employees who do not serve a leadership role in the faith,” the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 ruling.
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