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Who Is Considered a Minister?

Courts may use various tests to determine whether the ministerial exception applies to an individual.

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 the "ministerial exception" prevented it from resolving a church music director's claim that his church's decision to terminate his employment amounted to unlawful age and disability discrimination. An adult male (the "plaintiff") was terminated from his position as a church's music director. He sued the church and the governing diocese (the "defendants"), claiming that his dismissal violated federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of age and disability. The defendants asked the court to dismiss the case on the basis of the "ministerial exception" doctrine, which generally prohibits the civil courts from resolving employment disputes between ...

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  • May 1, 2012

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