The Ministerial Exception is Alive and Well

I was pleased today to hear that the U.S. Supreme Court, in Hosana-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, 565 U.S. ______ (2012), upheld the so-called ministerial exception to the nation’s employment discrimination laws.  For those of you who don’t know what the ministerial exception is, on page 13 of the slip opinion, which can be found here, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “Since the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U. S. C. §2000e et seq., and other employment discrimination laws, the Courts of Appeals have uniformly recognized the existence of a ‘ministerial exception,’ grounded in the First Amendment, that precludes application of such legislation to claims concerning the employment relationship between a religious institution and its ministers.”  (You can read about the case here and here.)

It will take some time to see what the impact of the case will ultimately be, but the facts were not the strongest and I was concerned that the Court might go the other way.  Therefore, I was very pleased to see that the Court ruled unanimously to uphold the ministerial exception and its application to this case.  The ministerial exception is essential to the freedom of religion in our nation given the current state of employment law.