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Music Director’s Duties Fall “Squarely Within the Ministerial Exception”

Court ruled it was barred from resolving claim of unlawful discrimination.

Key Point 8-10.01. The civil courts have consistently ruled that the First Amendment prevents them from applying employment laws to the relationship between a church and a minister.

A Massachusetts court ruled that it was barred by the “ministerial exception” from resolving a church music director’s claims of unlawful discrimination.

Pastor accused of harassment and discrimination

A woman (the “plaintiff”) served as the director of music ministries at a Catholic church for 18 years. She resigned from her employment on the ground that the pastor at her parish had subjected her to age- and gender-based harassment and discrimination and had retaliated against her when she alerted the archdiocese.

She sued the archdiocese in a state court, but the court dismissed her lawsuit on the basis of the “ministerial exception,” which generally bars the civil courts ...

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  • February 10, 2021

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