April 2022 Church & State Magazine

Supreme Court Rejects Church College Employment Case

  Supreme Court Rejects Church College Employment Case

The U.S. Supreme Court in late February declined to hear a case concerning a religious college in Massachusetts that denied a promotion to a professor who challenged its policies toward LGBTQ students.

Margaret DeWeese-Boyd, a professor of social work at Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts school, brought the legal challenge in Massachusetts courts after she was denied tenure in 2016. The Faculty Senate had recommended her for the promotion, but DeWeese-Boyd, who has taught at the school for more than 20 years, failed to get it. She sued, saying she was being punished for 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. But DeWeese-Boyd argued that her duties are not primarily religious. She said that while she approached her work from a Christian perspective, she had no overt religious duties.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in DeWeese-Boyd’s favor, leading the school to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. While the high court declined the case on a procedural matter, Justices Samuel A. Alito, Clarence M. Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett wrote to say that they believe the issues raised by the case should be examined by the court in the future.

Americans United is representing DeWeese-Boyd in the case, Gordon College v. DeWeese-Boyd.

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