Supreme Court Rules: "Church Must Be Free To Choose Those Who Will Guide It On Its Way"

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On January 11, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a rare unanimous decision for religious employers. The decision both clarifies that the ministerial exception is an absolute bar to employment discrimination suits brought on behalf of a minister based on employment decisions made by the employer, and illustrates that the ministerial exception may apply to a range of employees of religious institutions.

The Court ducked the issue of whether the ministerial exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct by their religious employers, leaving that question open for another day. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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