The Massachusetts trial judge, the Hon. Jeffrey T. Karp, has rejected Gordon College’s effort to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit filed against it by our client, a former professor of social work who claims that the College refused to promote her due to her support of LGBTQ+ students. Judge Karp’s decision expands anti-discrimination protection for workers at religiously affiliated institutions, and helps ensure that religious institutions cannot terminate or fail to promote employees for discriminatory reasons.
In this particular case, Gordon College – an evangelical Christian school – argued that it is immune to liability under the so-called “ministerial exemption,” which generally prohibits the application of anti-discrimination laws to religious institutions’ relationship with their “ministers.” According to Gordon College, the plaintiff in this case, Margaret DeWeese-Boyd, was a “minister” because she was responsible for integrating “faith-based beliefs into her teachings.”
Judge Karp rejected that argument in a 54-page decision, finding that DeWeese-Boyd was not a “minister” because “she did not have a religious title at Gordon, she did not represent herself as a minister, she did not play an integral (or any) role in religious services, she did not convey Christian doctrine to the Gordon community, she did not lead her students in prayer, and she did not perform any religious functions.”
Judge Karp went on to note that Gordon College’s arguments, taken to their logical conclusion, would mean that essentially any teacher at any religious school would qualify as a “minister,” regardless of their job title or duties.
You can read the court’s full decision in the case, DeWeese-Boyd v. Gordon College, here.