SCOTUS Broadens Employers' "Ministerial Exception" Protections

The Supreme Court of the United States has significantly broadened the scope of legal protections for religious employers against employment-related claims. The Court’s July 8, 2020 decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe Sch. Morrissey-Berru St. James Sch. v. Biel,[1] clarifies and broadens the so-called “ministerial exception,” which forbids or excepts courts from intervening in employment-related disputes involving workers engaged in religious activities. This important legal protection promotes First Amendment religious freedom rights by avoiding secular courts’ interference with employment decisions that may involve religious aspects. 

Too Much of a Stretch? Bostock's Expansive Ruling on Title VII Sex Discrimination

On June 15, 2020—the 5th anniversary of the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision recognizing a constitutionally-protected right of same-sex marriage[1] — the U.S. Supreme Court expanded sex-based discrimination to encompass sexual orientation and gender identity for purposes of employment discrimination protection. In Bostock v. Clayton County, the Court determined that when an employer fires an employee because of gender identity or sexual orientation, the employer is effectively firing the person for traits and qualities that would not have been an issue if they were members of the opposite sex. Thus, the Court held in a 6-3 ruling, discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation is discrimination “because of sex” and therefore presents a valid employment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This article summarizes the Court's majority and dissenting opinions, provides several observations, and then discusses Bostock's application such as to religious employers and other nonprofit organizations.