U.S. Supreme Court Upholds “Ministerial Exception” to Employment Discrimination Laws

The U.S. Supreme Court has settled the so-called “ministerial exception” issue exempting religious organizations from federal antidiscrimination laws based on their hiring and firing of “ministers.”

The Court held that a religious-school teacher, who was also a “minister” in the same denomination, could not maintain her lawsuit alleging she was fired in violation of the ADA. The Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the application of any federal employment discrimination laws to the hiring and firing decisions of a religious organization’s ministers.

Although it didn’t explicitly define who is a “minister,” it held that the school teacher was because she led the students in prayer and devotions (among other things), even though she taught the same curriculum as non-minister teachers.

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