ThinkProgress has an inside look at the Southern Baptist Convention’s plans to immunize themselves against claims of discrimination for firing women, minorities, or those suspected of LGBT tendencies or sympathies.
Based on a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that ministerial employees are exempt from discrimination laws, the solution is simple: anyone who works for a religious organization is encouraged to exercise ministerial duties and therefore is exempt from civil rights laws… and protections.
According to the manual, “[e]mployees with some duties usually performed by (or associated with) clergy are more likely to be viewed as ‘minister-like’ by the courts. Consequently, courts are more likely to apply the ministerial exception to employment law claims based on alleged discrimination” against these employees. In essence, the manual advises that an employer can take a janitor, require them to lead the staff in prayer every so often, and POOF! the janitor is now a “minister” and the employer is free to fire that janitor because they are black, because they are gay, or because they are a woman.
If the Court rules in favor of marriage equality, then you will see a bumper crop of Southern Baptist preachers doing everything from sweeping the floor to answering the phone, bringing their ministry — and their civil rights — to the fore and to the floor.
No one expects the Religious Reich to go quietly if the Court rules in favor. History has shown us that they have been the last bastions of bigotry, fighting school desegregation with every loophole and perverted interpretation of the bible that they can winnow out. Fifty years from now there will still be ways that they will be trying to repress the rights of others, and there will still be those who are coming up with ways to do it.