Ministerial exception limited in Petruska v. Gannon University
May 24, 2006 by Ross Runkel at LawMemo
The 3rd Circuit has staked out a bold position on the application of Title VII to ministers of the church, refusing to apply a "ministerial exception" when church discrimination has no religious foundation.
Lynette Petruska was a chaplain at a Catholic university. She sued under Title VII claiming she was demoted because of her sex and in retaliation for her opposition to sexual harassment.
Most courts would have dismissed the suit out of hand, citing the "ministerial exception."
The 3rd Circuit is allowing the case to go forward. Petruska v. Gannon University (3rd Cir 05/24/2006 (2-1), majority opinion by Edward R. Becker, deceased.
Here's the main idea, quoting the court:
We adopt a carefully tailored version of the ministerial exception. Where otherwise illegal discrimination is based on religious belief, religious doctrine, or the internal regulations of a church, the First Amendment exempts religious institutions from Title VII. In such cases, restricting a church’s freedom to select its ministers would violate the Free Exercise Clause by inhibiting the church’s ability to express its beliefs and put them into practice. Furthermore, questions about religious matters would pervade litigation, entangling courts in ecclesiastical matters and violating the Establishment Clause.
But where a church discriminates for reasons unrelated to religion, we hold that the Constitution does not foreclose Title VII suits. Employment discrimination unconnected to religious belief, religious doctrine, or the internal regulations of a church is simply the exercise of intolerance, not the free exercise of religion that the Constitution protects. Furthermore, in adjudicating suits that do not involve religious rationales for employment action, courts need not consider questions of religious belief, religious doctrine, or internal church regulation, a process that would violate the Establishment Clause by entangling courts in religious affairs.
Hooray for the 3rd Circuit, adopting exactly the position I have previously advocated. See Ministerial exception: putting churches above the law.
| MyLawMemo | Custom
Alerts | Newest Cases | Key
Word Search | Employment