Monday, May 26, 2008

Michigan Appellate Court Holds State Recognizes Ministerial Exception

In Weishuhn v. Diocese of Lansing, (MI Ct. App., May 22, 2008), a Michigan state court of appeals held that the "ministerial exception" exists under Michigan law to bar discrimination claims under the state's Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act. According to the court, the doctrine "precludes subject matter jurisdiction over claims involving the employment relationship between a religious institution and its ministerial employees." The court remanded the case to the trial court for it to determine whether plaintiff, a mathematics and religion teacher at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Mount Morris, Michigan, was a "ministerial" employee. The trial court was ordered to consider whether the teacher had primarily religious duties of religious significance, whether her position was primarily religious and whether her functions were essentially liturgical. In the case, teacher Madeline Weishuhn alleges retaliatory termination.