Friday, April 25, 2014

Excluding Churches From Unemployment Compensation Coverage Does Not Violate 1st or 14th Amendment

In Spicer v . Texas Workforce Commission, (TX App., April 22, 2014), a Texas state appellate court upheld the statutory exclusion of persons employed by churches from Texas' unemployment compensation coverage.  Appellant, formerly an organist and pianist for a Methodist church, claimed that denying him unemployment compensation violates his free exercise and equal protection rights. The court disagreed.  Appellant also argued that the exemption of churches from the tax required  by the unemployment compensation system violates the Establishment Clause. Again the court disagreed, saying in part:
a number of types of work are excluded from employment under the TUCA, reflecting the Legislature’s decision that the entities for whom that work is performed should not be subject to the burden of paying the tax required by the unemployment compensation system..... The breadth of the exemptions demonstrates the exemption ... was not “aimed at establishing, sponsoring, or supporting religion."