I was able to watch some of Judge Gorsuch’ confirmation hearings today and was fascinated to see that one of the first questions on an actual case was the “Hosanna Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School” vs Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. Hosanna Tabor is a Lutheran Church and school in our school system. The Supreme court was unanimous in it’s decision that the Government did not have the power to tell a church who their “ministers” could or should be and the Government had no right to interfere in selecting their own. The “Establishment Clause” forbids the first part and the “Free Exercise Clause” forbids the second. This is an interesting exercise in watching a real life issue with a set of eyes that see how our religious institutions can be pinned down and litigated if they are not careful in how they exercise their calling and dismissing practices.
There is a large amount of opinion among Pastors and many lay people that a Christian individual let alone a Church should never go to court based on 1 Corinthians 6.
“If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers! 7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”
The Apology of the Augsburg Confession praises legal action, when necessary: “Public remedy, made through the office of the public official, is not condemned, but is commanded and is God’s work, according to Paul (Romans 13). Now the different kinds of public remedy are legal decisions, capital punishment, wars, and military service” (Ap XVI 59). Where the government impedes our freedom to believe and act according to our biblical confession, we will fight for our freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. And we also will fight shoulder-to-shoulder with citizens of good will — be they Lutheran, Christian or not — for the religious freedoms of all. For the conscience is bound only to God, not to men. Consider how St. Paul made use of his rights as a Roman citizen. “I appeal to Caesar,” he said in Acts 25:11. This is from Matthew Harrison as found in a March 5, 2015 letter introducing the Synod’s Office in Washington DC that will defend religious liberty.