Wednesday, June 08, 2022

10th Circuit: No Interlocutory Appeal Of Ministerial Exception Determination

 In Tucker v. Faith Bible Chapel International, (10th Cir., June 7, 2022), the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, held that interlocutory appeals from the denial of a ministerial exception defense are not permitted.  The 50-page majority opinion said in part:

the “ministerial exception” is an affirmative defense to employment discrimination claims, rather than a jurisdictional limitation on the authority of courts to hear such claims....

In the case, a former high school teacher and administrator/ chaplain contends that he was fired for opposing alleged racial discrimination by a Christian school.

Judge Bacharach filed a 44-page dissent, saying in part:

The ministerial exception also advances values of a high order, protecting religious bodies from burdensome litigation over religious doctrine and preserving the structural separation of church and state. These values compel courts to resolve application of the ministerial exception at an early stage of the litigation.