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Seminary Professor Unable to Sue for Racial Discrimination

Ministerial exemption keeps court from getting involved in discrimination claims.

Key point 2-04.1. Most courts have concluded that they are barred by the First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom and nonestablishment of religion from resolving challenges by dismissed clergy to the legal validity of their dismissals.
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.

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the "ministerial exception," which bars the civil courts from resolving employment discrimination claims between churches and clergy, prevented a seminary professor from suing his seminary for racial discrimination, but did not prevent him from suing the seminary for breach of contract. Founded in 1865, originally as the College of the Bible on the campus of Transylvania University, Lexington Theological Seminary is "an accredited ...

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  • December 22, 2014

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