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April 21, 2011

Supreme Court Tackles 'Ministerial Exception'

High court will examine rule's scope.

Courts have generally recognized a rule known as the "ministerial exception" when it comes to employment lawsuits in churches. Because of the First Amendment, many judges have considered it inappropriate to rule in these disputes, especially when their rulings may influence who preaches from the pulpit.

However, a case in Michigan involving the teacher of a Christian school--in which a federal court ruled the teacher's disability discrimination lawsuit couldn't proceed because of the ministerial exception--was appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Earlier this month, the Court accepted it. In this short video update below, Richard Hammar explains the significance of this development, and why church leaders will watch closely to see how the Court interprets the scope of ministerial exception:

Related Tags: conflict, discrimination, employment, Law, lawsuits, ministerial exception, Richard Hammar, staff


While I, a Christian values and economic conservative and a retired attorney, see the choice and governance of teachers at a religious parochial school as protected by the First Amendment free exercise clause and the ministerial exception broadly defined, including allowing the religious-based parochial school to choose teachers who support its religious mission and doctrinal positions, I do not see how or why this would or should provide an exception to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended or other such laws of general application. Indeed, it escapes me how a Christian church based school can argue against coverage by the ADA without violating at least two clear scriptural commands.

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