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The Ministerial Exception and Sex Discrimination

The First Amendment generally prevents courts from resolving church employment claims.

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 Texas ruled that it was barred by the ministerial exception from resolving a dismissed seminary professor's claim that her dismissal was a result of unlawful sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A religious seminary hired a female professor (the "plaintiff") in its School of Theology. She soon was elevated to the rank of assistant professor, which was a tenure-track position. The plaintiff was the only female to teach in the School of Theology. In 2003 the seminary hired a new president. The president met with the plaintiff, and assured her that his appointment would not jeopardize her position. Some of the members of the seminary's board of ...

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  • September 1, 2009

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