Court Interferes in Church Self-Administration in Hiring Decision

Country: Spain

Date of incident: April 20, 2011

The Spanish Constitutional Tribunal ruled that Catechism teacher Resurrección Galera Navarro whose working contract was not renewed after marrying a divorced man and not informing her employer, she was dismissed unlawfully. Employer Ferrer Guardia Catholic School in Almeria was sentenced to pay compensation. Acknowledging the human dimension of this incident, it is in any case necessary that religious institutions are able to establish their own rules and ethos.

Mrs. Galera sued the school and the Dioceses of Almería for discrimination. On December 13th, 2001, the Trial Court of Almeria (Juzgado de lo Social nº 3) in judgement 881-2001 dismissed her claim on the grounds that she was not fired but her contract had only came to an end with no renewal. The court also noted that the Bishop decision was in agreement with article III of the Treaty between Spain and the Holy See from 1979, Act 2/2006, and Royal Decree 696/2007. The mentioned legal framework establishes that religion teachers need to be declared competent to teach by the church. The Supreme Justice Tribunal of Andalucía confirmed this legal outcome on April 23, 2002, under judgement 486-2002. Galera appealed to the Constitutional Tribunal (CT) which overturned the two previous judgements under the leadership of Manuel Aragon in April 2011. The CT found that the agreements between the Holy See and Spain are of lower hierarchy than the Spanish Constitution; and that article 14 of the Constitution guaranties equality and non-discrimination rights. The CT understood that Galera had suffered discrimination in freedom of belief, and right to privacy. According to the CT, the fact that Galero married a divorced man in contradiction to Catholic doctrine does not affect her knowledge on Catholic doctrine nor her teaching skills. The Dioceses of Almeria argued that Galera´s civil marriage is not coherent with the catholic doctrine, and therefore she lacks of an essential qualification for a Catechism teacher, which is to teach consistently and live accordingly. The CT however found that "religious criteria cannot preempt fundamental rights". The right of association by which an organization can grant or deny membership based on the adherence of candidates to the organization foundational principles or doctrine, is also a fundamental right. Equally, to exercise the institutional dimension of freedom of religions requires to hold authority over internal matters and hiring policies. Sources: