As part of a 15-state coalition, Attorney General Todd Rokita has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the rights of churches to practice and teach religious beliefs free from government interference.

At issue is the First Amendment right of a Virginia church to define who is a minister under its own religious doctrine.  New Life in Christ Church is seeking Supreme Court review of a recent ruling by a Virginia state court that denied a tax exemption to the church’s parsonage based on the government’s interpretation of the church’s religious doctrine.

“When it comes to our rights under the U.S. Constitution, we must remember that what happens in other states has a direct impact on the preservation of our freedoms here in Indiana,” Attorney General Rokita said. “I will always stand strong for Hoosiers’ religious liberty. We must never yield an inch of ground in defending such fundamental principles as those at stake in this case.”  

In the Kentucky-led amicus brief, the states argue that historically the U.S. Supreme Court has reserved the right to make ecclesiastical decisions and interpret religious doctrine to the faith community. As the Supreme Court has explained, “Courts are not arbiters of scriptural interpretation.”

The Supreme Court, the brief states, “has repeatedly reaffirmed the simple rule that courts should defer to the judgment of religious authorities when adjudicating disputes that turn on ecclesiastical questions.”