Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A misguided ministerial-exception decision in Indiana

I've been following closely -- and maybe some of you have been, too -- this story, here in Indiana.  My home diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend chose not to renew the contract of a teacher at a parochial (K-8) school after she underwent in vitro fertilization.  (The article describes this in one place as "treatment[] for infertility", which seems to misstate the diocese's position).

A local federal trial judge is allowing Emily Herx's Title VII sex-discrimination claim to go forward (but not her ADA claim).  According to the judge, Title VII's accommodation for religious employers does not apply because this accommodation does not give "freedom to make discriminatory decisions on the basis of race, sex, or national origin."  (This is true, but it is a mistake, in my view, to characterize what the Diocese did as being "discrimination" on the basis of sex as opposed to a religious-mission-related staffing decision.)  Also, the judge rejected the Diocese's ministerial-exception argument because, according to the news story, "nothing so far suggested Herx fit the definition of a 'minister' of the church."  In my view, a teacher at a K-8 parochial school is, presumptively, within the coverage of the ministerial exception.  

Stay tuned.  (And . . . expect more of this.)



Garnett, Rick | Permalink