The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments later this month in a case involving a Christian school’s right to enforce its religious beliefs in personnel decisions. The case, known as Ohio Civil Rights Commission v. Dayton Christian Schools, pits a private school’s understanding of Scripture against Ohio law barring sex discrimination in employment.
Dayton Christian Schools, Inc., enrolls 1,800 students on five campuses. Funded by parents and local churches, the school system receives no government assistance. The Supreme Court case grew out of the school’s 1979 dismissal of elementary-school teacher Linda Hoskinson.
In January 1979, Hoskinson notified Dayton Christian Schools that she was pregnant. The following month, the school system said her teaching contract would not be renewed for the following year. The school based that decision on its belief that mothers with preschool-age children should not work outside the home. Hoskinson objected to the decision.
She had taught in the school system for five years. Each year she signed an agreement that, among other things, stated her lifestyle and her relationship with Christ were “crucial” to her employment. She also initialed, as a sign of acceptance, paragraphs in the contract that listed the school system’s statement of faith and educational philosophy. Included was a paragraph that refers to a “chain of command” policy for resolving disputes.
When Hoskinson consulted a lawyer, Dayton Christian Schools said she violated its policies. The teacher was subsequently suspended, and then fired, according to court briefs. The school system says it acted on its belief—based on Matthew 18:15–17 and other Scripture passages—that Christians are prohibited from taking disputes to outside ...1
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