Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Followup question on discrimination law as applied to ministerial employment

(Again, this question is also on Facebook and I am reading answers and responding both places.)

Listed below are some religiously-related jobs. Who is a minister for the purposes of your views on yesterday's discrimination question?

Jobs within a church

Senior Minister

Associate Minister

Director of Communications


Church Custodian

Director of Music


Children's Ministry Director

Director of Religious Education

Church Secretary

Church office Manager

Nursery School attendent

Seminarian working as an intern

Religious Jobs Outside of Churches

Teacher at a Religious school

Principal of a religious school

Theology teacher at a religious school

Chaplain at a hospital or nursing home

Kosher Supervisor at a hospital or nursing home (required under Jewish law to be a rabbi)

(Again, there's no right answer, even less of one than with the first question as the courts are wildly inconsistent between circuits on some of the grayer areas)

Today's *headdesk* is a legal one rather than a criminal justice one, unless you consider what the state and nursing home did theft and/or false imprisonment.


James said...

only "called" ministers. all others are employees subject to and protected by standard labor laws...

Joel Monka said...

I agree with James; only called ministers for my previous A answer. All others can be considered secular employees, even in a religious organization.

Paul Oakley said...

I see where James is coming from: only called ministers have that direct relationship with the congregation rather than being hired or fired by the board, the senior minister, or some HR committee. It makes sense that the called relationship be protected from legal incursion in a special way. That is, though, a UU distinction that might not always or easily translate to the ways other religious bodies engage their leaders or have them assigned.

I think we may need to expand the list beyond called ministers, though, because we might want to allow a church to have a similar relationship with anyone who is going to represent the church to the congregation or to the community. Depending on the nature and dynamic of the congregation and denomination, that could include:

-Senior Minister
-Associate Minister
-Children's Ministry Director
-Director of Religious Education

But it definitely would not include office workers, contractors, and those who care for the physical plant.

I originally thought that I would only include the minister(s) of congregations, but then you went and included in your list the following:

-Kosher Supervisor at a hospital or nursing home (required under Jewish law to be a rabbi).

So I had to rethink and realized that outside the congregation there may, sometimes, be positions that require unique religious qualifications that cannot be substituted by someone other than the person the institution with full prejudice chose...

Suddenly you're making this difficult, CC!

Bill Baar said...

So if UUA starts hiring again, is it an illegal discrimination for candidates to have a history of pariticipation in UU activities?

Chalicechick said...


That question doesn't make a lot of sense. So I will answer the question that I think you were asking:

Under Federal Law a religious organization such as the UUA very clearly has every right to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring those who would be making decisions in how the church is run and/or acting in a ministerial capacity.

As far as lower-level employees are concerned, whether the UUA can insist that the secretaries and/or the person who runs their bookstore be a UU is a grayer question, but they probably can if they really want to. The UUA probably can't insist on UU janitors, but I don't see why they would want to.

That said, church work generally doesn't pay much and I seriously doubt the UUA is an exception. I don't think it is very likely that someone who wasn't committed to the aims of the UUA would want to work there since they would make more money doing the same job someplace else.


Bill Baar said...

The UUA probably can't insist on UU janitors, but I don't see why they would want to.

We're talking the legal principle CC... not the it doesn't make any difference because we may not pay well.

Chalicechick said...

Well, ok, then if there are lots of applicants for a janitorial position, the UUA can chose the most experienced or the friendliest, but they shouldn't chose a less-qualified UU just because he's a UU. I tend to doubt they would, though.

who has actually only seen one janitor case, and that was one where a church was claiming that all of its employees were ministers and since the janitor was a minister, it was legitimate for them to be paying him less than minimum wage. I really don't see the UUA pulling that.

Chalicechick said...

Oh, BTW, the church lost that case.

Bill Baar said...

For reasons I haven't been able to fathom, membership in the Church disqualifies one for employment at my Church. Something about not being able to take wages/salary from the Church if you're a member. I don't know if that's unique to our bylaws or standard practice in UU --or any other-- Churches.

UUA a different animal of course... it's not a Church.

Chalicechick said...

That's a strange rule, and not one I've heard of another church having before. But I don't think the church has anything to worry about under Title VII.

who is not a lawyer