A federal district court in North Carolina recently granted summary judgment to a teacher fired after he married his same-sex partner, holding that the action violated Title VII’s prohibitions against sex discrimination. Among other findings, the court held that the ministerial exception to Title VII did not apply. First, the school had stipulated that the teacher was not a religious “minister.” Even absent that stipulation, however, the court noted that the exception would not apply. The school did not require than any of its teachers be Catholic or agree with Catholic doctrine. In fact, it preferred that its teachers of secular subjects not expound on Catholic principles. With such a division of labor, the court found that the ministerial exception did not apply to this particular personnel decision.
Plaintiff’s position as substitute English and drama teacher did not directly “[reflect] a role in conveying the Church’s message and carrying out its mission.” HosannaTabor, 565 U.S. at 192. Charlotte Catholic High School teachers do not have to reference Catholic principles. (Doc. No. 31-17 at 74:2-17). The High School administration prefers that secular teachers, like Plaintiff, avoid discussing Catholic doctrine. (Doc. No. 31-16 at 28:2-15). Unlike all three teachers in Hosanna-Tabor and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Plaintiff did not teach religion in his classes and was not tasked with preparing students for participation in Catholic worship services.