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Employment Discrimination Suit Barred Against a Church due to Ministerial Exception

On January 11, 2012, in Hossana-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, US Supreme Court, No. 10-553), the Court held that though the plaintiff was not a minister in the traditional sense, the ministerial exception still applied to an employment discrimination suit against a religious teacher. The Court explained that Constitutional protections regarding freedom of exercise and establishment of religion protect churches from suit when it comes to employment discrimination. This is because the churches have a protected ability to select their ministers without interference from the government.

The court found that the plaintiff would be classified as a teacher in her position at the church. However, because her role as a teacher included teaching religious studies, the plaintiff actually qualified as a minister within the meaning of the exception. Ministers give religious instruction and transmit faith and because the plaintiff fulfilled both of these categories the Court held that the Ministerial Exception absolutely applied to her.

If you are a teacher and believe you have been terminated due to employment discrimination, please do not hesitate to contact an Orange County Employment Law attorney today.

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