Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Court Dismisses Suit Over Firing, Invokes Ministerial Exception

In Guerrier v. Southern New England Conference Association of Seventh-Day Adventists, 2009 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2962 (CT Super., Nov. 12, 2009), a Connecticut trial court invoked the ministerial exception doctrine to dismiss a group of tort and contract claims filed by a minister who had been removed by defendant as pastor of Shekinah Haitian Church in Norwich, and told there were no other past openings available. Plaintiff claimed that the motives for his dismissal had no relation to church doctrine, teaching or administration. He alleged they were related to his request for for medical benefits and increased wages and his inquiries regarding improper financial activities by a church member. The court held, however:
For the purposes of the ministerial exception, it matters only that the allegations require an inquiry into the church's reasons for the termination. Though the plaintiff does not allege that he was terminated for reasons of religious doctrine, for example, the defendant may be required to assert reasons of religious doctrine as a defense.