Thursday, January 12, 2012

The "Ministerial Exception"

The US Supreme Court ruled unanimously(!) that people such as teachers in religious schools meet the definition of "ministers" when it comes to having no rights to sue for discrimination.

I wish I knew someone who taught in a religious school (but as you can probably guess, I don't really know anyone like that), because I would talk them into claiming that exception on their income taxes this year. Which means that their entire salary ought to be tax free.

As far as I am concerned, a minister is someone who is ordained (more or less -- different religions have different ways of dealing with that) to "preach" or whatever, minister to the flock, etc. If you are performing a purely secular duty -- such as was the case with the math teacher at the center of this case -- then you are not a minister but just an employee, and if the church that employs you gets Federal money (through the so-called "Faith Based Initiatives" etc.) then they shouldn't be able to sidestep Federal anti-discrimination laws.

In other words, I don't think that churches ought to be able to have it both ways... But what do I know?

Anyway, I am looking forward to a bunch of enterprising church employees using the language of this decision to avoid paying taxes, and we'll be interested in seeing how that goes. Class action suit, anyone?

1 Comment:

Analyst said...

If they work for the church and are fired, often they find they aren't entitled to unemployment benefits since the church is exempt.

"Now isn't that special" -- Church lady.