Friday, April 30, 2021

Catholic School Campus Minister's Claims Dismissed Under Ministerial Exception Doctrine

In Simon v. Saint Dominic Academy, (D NJ, April 28, 2021), a New Jersey federal district court applied the ministerial exception doctrine as defined in recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent to dismiss statutory and contract-based claims by the former Chairperson of the Religious Department and Campus Minister at a women's Catholic high school. Plaintiff was terminated the day after she returned from a leave due to a motor vehicle accident.  She contends that she was dismissed because of her age, disability, and whistleblowing activities. The court said in part:

Plaintiff pleads that she was replaced by a younger individual who was not qualified to teach religion.... Plaintiff’s allegations ... will require the Court to second guess SDA’s decision to terminate a minister, which is precisely what the ministerial exception is intended to prohibit and will necessarily entangle the Court in internal church governance.