The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts heard a case last month focusing on whether a religious college had the right to deny a promotion to a professor who criticized the school’s anti-LGBTQ policies.

Margaret DeWeese-Boyd sued Gordon College in Wenham after she was denied a promotion to full professor. DeWeese-Boyd, who has taught at the school for 20 years, claims she is being punished for vocally opposing the school’s policies on LGBTQ rights.

Under a legal doctrine known as the “ministerial exception,” religious educational institutions have been given broad latitude to hire and fire as they see fit when employees have explicit religious responsibilities.

DeWeese-Boyd denies that her duties are primarily religious. Reuters reported that her attorney, Hillary Schwab, argued that while DeWeese-Boyd “approaches her work from a Christian perspective,” she was never given overtly religious duties such as leading sermons or teaching theology.

Gordon College is being defended by the Becket Fund, a Religious Right legal group. Eric Baxter, a Becket Fund attorney, told the court that DeWeese-Boyd can’t sue because “[s]he described her work as integrally Christian, furthering the kingdom of God, and participating in the ministry of Christian reconciliation.” (DeWeese-Boyd v. Gordon College)

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