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Supreme Court: What's More Important than Church Doctrine?

Can the justices decide an employment case without making religious decisions? Says Breyer: 'This is tough and I'm stuck.'

As in many cases that touch on religion, Supreme Court justices seemed divided today as they considered the case of a fired Missouri-Synod Lutheran elementary teacher classified as a "commissioned minister." But they seemed to agree that there's no easy, uniform principle that would allow church employees to seek redress in the courts without entangling the courts in questions of religious doctrine.

"This is tough and I'm stuck on this," Justice Steven Breyer said. "I don't see how you can avoid going into religion to some degree. You have to decide if this is really a minister, for example, and what kind of minister. That gets you right involved. Or if you're not going to do that, you're going to go look to see what are their religious tenets? And that gets you right involved. I just can't see a way of getting out of the whole thing."

In June 2004, Cheryl Perich fell ill at a church golf outing and was hospitalized. She took a disability leave of absence and was finally diagnosed with narcolepsy ...

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