Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ministerial Exception Precludes Wage and Hour Suit Against Scientology

In Headley v. Church of Scientology International, (CD CA, April 2, 2010), a California federal district court dismissed a claim by a Church of Scientology staff member that the Church violated state and federal labor laws. The court said:
Here, even if Plaintiff could establish the alleged federal and state labor law violations, there is no dispute that she: (1) was employed by a religious institution; (2) was chosen for her position based largely on religious criteria; and (3) performed religious duties and responsibilities. She worked for ... institutions within the Church of Scientology. She also was able to hold the positions she had with Defendants based largely on religious criteria, namely her commitment to 1,000,000,000 years of service to Scientology and the lifestyle constraints that come with being a member of the Sea Org.... Finally ... she performed various religious duties and responsibilities, most notably "auditing" and "cramming." For these reasons ... the ministerial exception would apply. Thus, her first cause of action fails.
According to AP's report on the decision, plaintiff alleged that she worked 100-hour weeks at almost no pay as part of Scientology's elite Sea Organization. (See prior related posting.) The Church of Scientology issued a press release on the decision.