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Are Parochial School Teachers Ministers?

Court rules that ministerial exception does not apply to teacher in Catholic school.

Key point. Some courts have not recognized the ministerial exception, usually because the complainant was not a minister in either status or function, or was employed by a secular organization.

A Wisconsin court ruled that the so-called "ministerial exception," which generally bars the civil courts from resolving employment disputes between churches and clergy, did not apply to a first grade teacher in a Catholic parochial school. A woman (the "plaintiff") was employed as a first-grade teacher at a parochial school from 1974 until 2002. In 2002, when the plaintiff was 53 years old, the school informed her that her employment contract would not be extended for the next year. The plaintiff filed a complaint with a civil rights agency, claiming age discrimination under a state fair employment law. The school asked the agency to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it was barred by the ministerial ...

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  • March 1, 2009

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