Christian ministries can hire or fire people based on their religious beliefs, a federal court has ruled.
The decision comes after Alyce Conlon filed suit against InterVarsity Christian Fellowship after she was fired for not reconciling her marriage. Previously, she had worked as a spiritual director for the fellowship.
Conlon was placed on paid leave so she could reconcile with her husband. Then in December 2011 she was fired because the organization had “not seen enough progress.”
Later, her husband filed for divorce.
Conlon then filed suit against IVF in 2012, claiming discrimination under the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. Her case was initially dismissed but Conlon appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Christian News Network reports the court upheld the ruling this week.
“Because IVCF is a religious organization and Conlon was a ministerial employee, IVCF’s decision to terminate her employment cannot be challenged under federal or state employment discrimination laws,” the three-judge panel declared. “The Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses do not permit federal or state courts to adjudicate such matters when the defendant properly asserts the ministerial exception as an affirmative defense.”
Said Alliance Defending Freedom: “As the Sixth Circuit affirmed, the ability of faith-based groups to make employment decisions consistent with the very faith they espouse is a ‘structural limitation imposed on the government by the Religion Clauses [of the First Amendment], a limitation that can never be waived,'” Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker said in a statement. “The court was right to recognize that this freedom extends to groups beyond just those that are directly run by churches and denominations.”
Publication date: February 11, 2015