A Free Ride to Religious Groups in Secular Times?
by Martin Marty, guest contributor from Sightings
Photo by swatjester/Flickr
Those who observe United States Supreme Court decisions on “church and state” are dealing with what many call the most important “religious liberty” case in decades, at least since the 1940s. Like so many cases, this one had a parochial start.
The details are familiar, and we need not rehearse them all. Let it come to focus on the fact that a Lutheran parochial school teacher had been dealt what to her was a manifest injustice. She countered by seeking to pursue her case in court. Doing so, claimed the church, was counter to church teachings, so it fired her.
Had she been a simply secular employee in a simply secular post, the usual standards for administering justice would have applied. But the church named her a “minister,” and argued for a “ministerial exception” to secular standards. The Supreme Court decision left the teacher out in the judicial cold and left many citizen justice-advocates heated up.
So we add a “ministerial exception” to a national vocabulary and code which makes another exception in religious matters, alongside “tax exemption for the churches.” Such a tax exemption practice is so widely appreciated that few think of its rationales and practices. Try getting elected to Congress on a platform which would question and even abolish such tax exemption.
Is exemption just? Clearly, it is privileging religion, and many court decisions recognize and affirm this. Once again: is it just? Is it just to the significant percentage of the population which disfavors religion, ignores or disdains its institutions, yet pays higher taxes than if church properties were taxed. Never mind. Without such an exception, religious institutions would not thrive or always survive. So it is regarded, not always with clear rationales, as a public good.
Does this mean that the church, which is supposed to be prophetic, has to mute critical roles and support religious institutions even when they have, in the eyes of their critics, malign purposes and malignant practices? Yes. Being uncritical is a price religious institutions pay for the goods they derive for their prosperity in a free republic and letting the institutions go free from taxing is the price it pays when it can only wink at religions damaging the public good, as many of them do.
“With liberty and justice for all…” is an ascription in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, one that sets up a difficult balancing act. The founders, among them James Madison and others who quoted Montesquieu, were nervous. They quoted him: granting privileges to religion, as America does, has many upsides, but it can also contribute to downsides. If you want to destroy religion, Montesquieu had advised, give it favor. By granting “tax exemption” and now “ministerial exceptions,” the citizenry and its courts (unanimously in this case of the Supreme Court) are giving favors unmatched by policies of European nations which have or until recently had “established churches.”
These years one hears from some cultural and political factions the gross generalization that religion in general and Christianity in particular are being discriminated against and are suffering from the actions, policies, and expressions of secular society. Cases like the current one counter evidences. There are many assaults on faiths, including Christianity, in the culture at large. But the generally free ride given religious institutions even in a “secular time” should inspire thought: With all its contradictions, the United States remains a wonderful place in which religions can prosper. They do well when they serve the common good freely and openly.
Martin E. Marty is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at The University of Chicago. He’s authored many books, includingPilgrims in Their Own Land and Modern American Religion.
This essay is reprinted with permission of Sightings from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Well Hot Damn
My post is spreading like Wild Fire!!! Thanks y’all I really appriciate reblogging it! I think it is stupid how they even have time to propose a bill like this do to our economic troubles let alone do you realize how many kids would get out of the Agricultual fields if this was passed? Our most demanding field in the U.S in in Agriculture taking away livestock and crops from kids will effect jobs in 15 years and what would become of FFA or 4-H? I’m sorry but when I start a family, they are helping me with my livestock, when they are old enough to drive, they will have permission to drive the farm truck and the tractor. Enough Said!
More Info and how to bitch them out:
*Go here -> http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=WHD-2011-0001-0001
*Read the proposed legislation.
*Post your comment by 11:59pm tonight.
Let’s save the future of agriculture.
Taking Medical Leave? You Should Know This
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), passed in 1993, provides relief for employees who need time off because of a serious health condition (whether their own or that of a family member). It allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off – in addition to other eligible leave – during any 12-month period.
The rules governing the use of FMLA leave are fairly straightforward. From the Department of Labor:
- “… you must first work for a covered employer. Generally, private employers with at least 50 employees are covered by the law… Government agencies and elementary and secondary schools are covered by the FMLA, regardless of the number of employees…
- … you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months. You do not have to have worked for 12 months in a row (so seasonal work counts)…
- … you must have worked for the employer for at least 1250 hours in the 12 months before you take leave…
- … you must work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite.”
But as is often the case, how the rules are applied – and sometimes even if they are applied at all – can mean the difference between keeping and losing your job.
For your reference, here are a few additional “rules” you should know when considering FMLA leave:
1. If you’re abusing your leave, your employer can probably fire you (even if they can’t prove it):
“One employer attempted to address the problem [of FMLA abuse] by hiring a private investigator to follow suspected FMLA abusers. When the investigator reported that an employee was abusing his leave, the employee was fired. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals determined in Scruggs v. Carrier Corporation that the employer’s ‘honest suspicion’ was enough to allow the employer to terminate the employee and to shield it from FMLA liability.” (Foley & Lardner)
2. You may be able to keep your second job while on FMLA leave from your first:
“Several years ago a client’s full-time employee had to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for stress. While he was on leave, somebody reliable saw him working in the men’s department at a local shopping center. The company was ready to fire him for fraudulent FMLA leave… The company investigated, and sure enough — it turned out that the store job was part time, much less ‘stressful’ than the employee’s regular job, and completely within his restrictions.” (Constangy, Brooks & Smith)
3. You might be eligible for a lighter workload while you’re taking FMLA leave:
“When an employee takes FMLA leave, is an employer obligated to adjust its performance standards so as to avoid penalizing the employee? According to a recent federal court decision, the answer is Yes… Particularly troublesome to the court was evidence that: 1) the company terminated Jeff for not meeting sales expectations, even though he was absent a number of days for FMLA-protected treatment…” (Franczek Radelet)
4. You don’t need to wait a year to schedule future FMLA leave:
“’The determination of whether an employee has worked for the employer for … a total of at least 12 months must be made as of the date the FMLA leave is to start.’ If the surgery is scheduled to take place before the employee has completed a year of service, he is not eligible for FMLA leave and not protected from termination. On the other hand, if he has scheduled his surgery for after his one-year anniversary with the company, then he will be eligible for FMLA leave at the time his expected absence begins — and the FMLA applies.” (Foley & Lardner)
5. If you’re too new to get FMLA leave but your employer grants it, you might be eligible after all:
“The county apparently assumed she was eligible and ‘granted’ her FMLA leave and provided paperwork indicating that she qualified for FMLA leave. She was later terminated for attendance and sued for FMLA retaliation (punishing an employee for requesting or taking FMLA leave)… [T]he court allowed her retaliation claim to go forward because the county had led her to believe that she was eligible and could have the time off that she had requested.” (Constangy, Brooks & Smith)
6. It’s your employer’s responsibility to determine when time off becomes FMLA leave:
“The Lichtenstein case follows a growing line of cases that seems to put the onus on employers to ask the questions necessary to determine whether the FMLA is applicable… Keep in mind: employees are not required to specifically state ‘FMLA’ as a reason for their absence; rather, the FMLA puts the responsibility on employers to decide whether FMLA is in play, and to inquire further if there is any ambiguity in the leave request.” (Franczek Radelet)
7. Employers can apply FMLA leave to run concurrently with worker’s comp leave:
“Any leave taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act may be run concurrently with workers’ compensation leave. In other words, if you are going to be out for a week with a work comp injury, that time should count against your 12 week FMLA allotment. Just like any other leave, you need to let them know that they are on Family and Medical Leave, how much leave they have and how the leave process works.” (Davis Brown)
Read the updates:
• Honest Suspicion of FMLA Abuse Shields Employer - Foley & Lardner LLP
• When Can An Employer Fire An Employee For Medical Leave Fraud? - Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP
• Employee’s FMLA Leave Requires an Employer to Adjust Performance Standards - Franczek Radelet P.C.
• FMLA Protects Employees Who Request Leave Before They Are Eligible - Foley & Lardner LLP
• Lewd Conduct, Lactation Accommodation, And Other Steaming Hot Employment Law News! - Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP
• When Has an Employee Provided Sufficient Notice of the Need for FMLA Leave? - Franczek Radelet P.C.
• As they say on Project Runway - Make it Work (for you): The Intersection of Work Comp and the Family and Medical Leave Act - Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors & Roberts, P.C.
• Failing to Follow Call-in Procedures Dooms Employee’s FMLA Claim - Franczek Radelet P.C.
• Miscalculating Eligibility for FMLA Leave Can Be A Costly Mistake - Akerman Senterfitt
• Second Circuit Determines Teacher Who Worked 1,247 is Eligible under the Family and Medical Leave Act - Cullen and Dykman LLP
• No FMLA Violation for Firing Employee Who Abused Leave – FordHarrison
• Employer Best Practices for Analyzing Whether Leave Beyond FMLA is an “Undue Hardship” under the ADA - Franczek Radelet P.C.
• Your Employer Can Fire You for Taking Medical Leave - Lawyers.com
• Using “Rolling” Method to Calculate FMLA Leave Almost Always the Best Choice for Employers - Franczek Radelet P.C.
Follow @FMLA_Laws on Twitter»
This is really frustrating.
All information is about “filing a charge,” rather than filing a complaint. It’s disheartening to think:
- That no one expects anyone who isn’t directly being discriminated against during the hiring process to complain about discrimination.
- That there’s no system in place to handle such complaints.
What. The. Fuck.
Here’s what I’m reading, if you’re interested in taking a gander. I’m about to call the New York office and see if I can get more answers over the phone. Edit: Just kidding, the only number listed on the New York EEOC website is the same listed for the national office (1-800-669-4000) and it’s been busy every time I’ve tried so far.