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When Is an Organist a Minister?

If you play music in church, you'd better hope you're not the victim of job discrimination. That is the lesson of a recent 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion picked up by Michael W. Fox at Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer. The case, as Fox explains it, involved an age discrimination suit brought by the organist for the Peoria, Ill., Catholic diocese. In dismissing his case, Circuit Chief Judge Richard A. Posner offers what Fox describes as "a handy history of the ministerial exception, including a historical sojourn through such ecclesiastical courts as the Court of Peculiars and the Court of Arches." Posner concluded that the organist's selection of the music he would play "required him to make a discretionary religious judgment," bringing him within the scope of the ministerial exception. Fox explains:

Ultimately there was no question that [the organist] "performed tasks that were 'traditionally ecclesiastical or religious,'" which doomed his suit.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on April 5, 2006 at 10:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)


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