St. James School v. Biel (U.S. Supreme Court, 2020)

Separation of Church & State

U.S. Supreme Court ,

Separation of Church & State

At issue in this case is the application of the First Amendment’s ministerial employee exception, first recognized by the Court in 2012, to two teachers at different religious, elementary schools. Grounded in constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, it exempts religious institutions from all employment discrimination laws for employees deemed to be ministerial. Lower courts ruled that the teachers could move forward with their respective age and disability discrimination lawsuits because the exception did not apply to them. ADL joined a brief on behalf of neither party asserting that given the sweeping breadth of the exception, it should only apply where the totality of circumstances, considering all facts bearing on the ministerial nature of an employee’s job, clearly demonstrates that the employee is a minister of the faith. Based on this standard, the brief concludes that the exception applies to one teacher, but not the other.