Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Age Discrimination and Religious Organizations
Court says religious organizations not applicable to most religious organizations.
Key point: The federal age discrimination does not apply to most religious organizations.

A federal district court in Missouri ruled that it could not resolve a lawsuit brought against a synagogue by a former business administrator who claimed that he had been dismissed on the basis of age. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits covered employers from discriminating in any employment decision (hiring, firing, etc.) on the basis of the age of any individual who is at least 40 years of age. The Act applies to any employer with 20 or more employees that is involved in interstate commerce. In deciding that the Act did not apply to the synagogue, the court relied on the Supreme Court's 1979 decision in N.L.R.B. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 440 U.S. 490 (1979). In the Catholic Bishop decision, the Supreme Court ruled that in deciding whether of not a federal law applies to religious organizations, a civil court first must ask if applying the law "would give rise to serious constitutional questions." If it would, then the law cannot be applied to religious organizations without a "clear expression of an affirmative intention" by Congress to apply the law to such organizations. The district court concluded that applying the Age Discrimination in Employment Act to a church or synagogue would "give rise to serious constitutional questions." In reaching this conclusion, the court quoted from the business administrator's job description, and noted that his duties included "implementing Temple policies" and "having a positive attitude towards Jewish life and a Jewish background, enabling the administrator to understand the work of the Temple, its purposes and highest ideals and goals." The court noted that the synagogue terminated the business administrator in part because he was "not properly performing the position of administrator." It concluded:

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