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 appeals court ruled that it was barred by the "ministerial exception" from resolving a church music director's claim that he was dismissed in violation of federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on age or disability. A church's music director (the "plaintiff") oversaw the music department's budget and expenditures, managed the sound systems and maintained the sound equipment, music room, and music area in the sanctuary, and rehearsed with members of the choir and accompanied them on the piano during services while running the soundboard. The plaintiff's employment was terminated by the church, and he filed a lawsuit claiming that his termination was in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The church asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis of the ministerial exception, which generally bars the civil courts from resolving employment disputes between churches and clergy. A federal district court agreed that the ministerial exception applied, and it dismissed the case.