About this Case
The case concerned the “ministerial exception,” a legal doctrine that bars interference with a church’s employment relationships with its ministers. The exception is based on two clauses in the First Amendment—the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause—which prevent the government from interfering in matters of a church’s governance. In this case, a former clergyman, whose denomination’s policy required him to retire at age 70, sought to resist this policy. He sued the denomination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The district court ruled in favor of the denomination, but on a basis other than the ministerial exception. The retired clergyman appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
Summary of NLF's Brief
Our brief showed how the various Circuits have treated the ministerial exception and how this case fit within those precedents. We argued that if a court’s interference with a church’s employment decision would violate the First Amendment under a Title VII claim of race or sex discrimination, then a court’s interference under the ADEA for age discrimination would be equally unconstitutional. A failure to apply the ministerial exception would have led to a violation of the Free Exercise rights of the church and would have violated the Establishment Clause.