Supreme Court Upholds Broad Interpretation of Ministerial Exception

In the consolidated cases Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrisey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses prevent the adjudication of employment discrimination claims brought by an employee who performed religious tasks for their employer. In the opinion issued on July 8, 2020, the Court held that the “ministerial exception,” the legal doctrine that prohibits discrimination lawsuits against religious employers, is to be interpreted broadly and may be applied to employees who do not have the formal title of minister. In this case, the terminated parties were teachers at Catholic schools who brought cases under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination on Employment Act of 1967. The Court held that they were barred from bringing their cases under the ministerial exception, because after weighing all relevant circumstances, including that they taught religion classes, worshiped and prayed with the students, and had employment agreements and employee handbooks that addressed the schools’ mission to promote the Catholic faith, they we found to have met the intent of the exception.

The full opinion can be found here:

Categories: Employment

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