Jump directly to the content

The Ministerial Exception and Disability Discrimination

The First Amendment generally bars courts from resolving church employment disputes.

Key Point 8-10.1. The civil courts have consistently ruled that the First Amendment prevents the civil courts from applying employment laws to the relationship between a church and a minister.

A federal court in Michigan ruled that it was barred by the "ministerial exception" from resolving a disability discrimination claim brought by a teacher against a church-operated school. The court began its opinion by observing that "for the ministerial exception to bar an employment discrimination claim, the employer must be a religious institution and the employee must have been a ministerial employee." There was no dispute in this case that the school was a religious institution and so the focus shifted to the question of whether the teacher was a ministerial employee. The court concluded that she was. It noted that the exception "most clearly applies to clergy and ordained ministers," but "it is ...

Log In For Full Access

Interested in becoming a member? Learn more.

Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

Related Topics:
  • September 1, 2009

Related ResourcesView All

Essential Guide to Employment Issues for Church Boards
Essential Guide to Employment Issues for Church Boards
Covers selection and screening, dispute resolution, terminations, discrimination, and minimum wage.