Citing the “Ministerial Exception,” 2d Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Title VII Race/Religious Discrimination Claim

In Penn v. New York Methodist Hospital, 2018 WL 1177293 (2d Cir. March 7, 2018), the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s race and religious discrimination claims asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From the Opinion:

[T]he district court did not err in applying the ministerial exception doctrine. While a close question, NYMH, because of its history and continuing purpose, through its Department of Pastoral Care, is a “religious group,” and since Mr. Penn’s role within the Department of Pastoral Care was to provide religious care to the hospital’s patients and religious care only, the ministerial exception doctrine should be applied. Once applied, its application warrants this lawsuit’s dismissal. Any other conclusion risks violating the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses, most specifically the Establishment Clause.

Judge Droney wrote a dissenting opinion, in which he asserts that the defendant is not a “religious institution” and that the majority “set the bar far too low for employers to claim religious-based immunity from federal anti-discrimination law.”

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