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Religious Employers and Civil Courts

Courts can resolve lawsuits against religious employers if no interpretation of religious doctrine is involved.

Key point: Some courts have ruled that they have the authority to review the dismissals of non—minister employees by churches and other religious organizations if they can do so without any consideration of religious doctrine.

A Texas appeals court ruled that a lay teacher's lawsuit against a Catholic high school for wrongfully dismissing him could be resolved by the civil courts so long as no consideration of religious doctrine was required. The teacher, who originally taught Latin and later was promoted to assistant principal, was terminated when he refused to sign a "conditional employment" agreement the school proposed following an in depth investigation of several allegations of sexual harassment. The school was unable to prove that the harassment actually occurred, so it did not dismiss the teacher outright. Rather, it permitted him to remain employed if he agreed to a ...

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Posted:
  • March 1, 1996

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