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‘Ministerial Exception’ Prevents Court from Resolving Dismissed Minister’s Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

The court concluded if the application of the ministerial exception is obvious from the face of a civil lawsuit, then a pre-discovery motion to dismiss is appropriate.

Last Reviewed: March 9, 2021
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.

A Maryland court ruled that it was barred by the "ministerial exception" from resolving a wrongful termination lawsuit that a dismissed minister filed against his former church.

A pastor (the "plaintiff") was hired as pastor of a Methodist church in 2009. His pastoral position was subject to a yearly employment contract, which was renewed in 2010, 2011, and 2012. At the end of 2012, the plaintiff's employment was terminated by the regional conference of the Methodist Church because it had "lost faith" in his spiritual leadership.

The plaintiff thereafter sued his church and Conference alleging wrongful termination based ...

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  • June 19, 2017
  • Last Reviewed: March 9, 2021