Crisitello v. St. Theresa School (Supreme Court of New Jersey, 2021)

Separation of Church & State
Discrimination

State Supreme Court ,

Separation of Church & State
Discrimination

At issue in this case is the application of the First Amendment’s ministerial employee exception to an art teacher at a religious elementary school. Grounded in constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, the exception exempts religious institutions from all employment discrimination laws for employees deemed to be ministerial. A lower state court ruled that the teacher, who performed no “vital religious duties,” could move forward with her pregnancy and marital discrimination lawsuit against the school because the exception did not apply to her. ADL joined a brief drafted by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the National Women’s Law Center in support of the teacher asserting that acceptance of the school’s excessively broad interpretation of the exception would have far-reaching consequences for employees of the numerous religious schools and other institutions in the State of New Jersey. It would deprive such employees of workplace anti-discrimination protections by permitting religious institutions to unilaterally determine when the exception applies without consideration of an employee’s actual duties.