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Missouri Federal Court Further Defines “Ministerial Exception”

Lay principal’s lawsuit alleging sex discrimination not allowed to proceed.

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 federal court in Missouri ruled that the “ministerial exception” prevented it from deciding an employment dispute between a church and a lay principal at the church’s school.


The pastor of a Catholic church (the “defendant church”) within the Archdiocese of St. Louis (the “defendant archdiocese”) interviewed the plaintiff and offered her the position of principal at the church’s elementary school (the “school”). The plaintiff was principal from July 2016 through January 2018. The pastor was her direct supervisor.

The application the plaintiff completed for the position of principal of the school provided that all “administrators in Catholic ...

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  • July 11, 2022

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