Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ministerial Exception Doctrine Bars ADA Claim By Adventist Music Teacher

In Curl v. Beltsville Adventist School, (D MD, Aug. 15, 2016), a Maryland federal district court held that the ministerial exception doctrine applies to prevent a music teacher at a Seventh Day Adventist school from pursuing federal claims under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The teacher sued when her contract was terminated because she was unable to return fully to work a number of months after being seriously injured in a fall at work. In finding that plaintiff 's position was ministerial in nature, the court said in part:
Although a portion of Plaintiff's responsibilities were secular in nature, Plaintiff acknowledges that she is personally a Seventh-day Adventist whose role at the School included teaching religious music and leading prayer services.... [S]he agreed to abide by the Education Code, which "requires that schools employ only those who live in complete harmony with the beliefs and practices of the Church" and therefore required that all School teachers be "baptized Adventists committed to the Church's program of ministry."... [A] portion of her salary was paid by tithe funds, which are intended to be used for ministry.... Moreover, Plaintiffs performance was evaluated in part based on her spiritual leadership.