Since the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964and other employment discrimination laws, the Courts of Appealshave uniformly recognized the existence of a “ministerial exception,”grounded in the First Amendment, that precludes application of suchlegislation to claims concerning the employment relationship be-tween a religious institution and its ministers. The Court agrees thatthere is such a ministerial exception. Requiring a church to accept orretain an unwanted minister, or punishing a church for failing to doso, intrudes upon more than a mere employment decision. Such ac-tion interferes with the internal governance of the church, deprivingthe church of control over the selection of those who will personify itsbeliefs. By imposing an unwanted minister, the state infringes theFree Exercise Clause, which protects a religious group’s right toshape its own faith and mission through its appointments. Accordingthe state the power to determine which individuals will minister tothe faithful also violates the Establishment Clause, which prohibitsgovernment involvement in such ecclesiastical decisions.
An application of the provisions of Title VII to the employment relationship which exists between The Salvation Army and Mrs. McClure, a church and its minister, would involve an investigation and review of these practices and decisions and would, as a result, cause the State to intrude upon matters of church administration and government which have so many times before been proclaimed to be matters of a singular ecclesiastical concern. Control of strictly ecclesiastical matters could easily pass from the church to the State. The church would then be without the power to decide for itself, free from state interference, matters of church administration and government.
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