High Court Won’t Upset Another Church Firing

     (CN) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to consider the employment claims of a woman who was fired by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tulsa, Okla.



     Monica Skrzypczak served as director of the Tulsa diocese’s Department of Religious Formation until she was fired in 2007. She had spent 10 years of supervising the church’s resource libraries and its Pastoral Studies Institute, where she also taught courses.
     In a subsequent federal lawsuit, Skrzypczak claimed age and gender discrimination, as well as violations of the Equal Pay Act.
     A federal judge dismissed the case, citing the so-called ministerial exception to federal employee protections, which bars ministers from suing the church under civil employment laws because such claims would require courts to meddle in church affairs, a violation of the First Amendment.
     The 10th Circuit upheld the dismissal of her case, saying the evidence shows that Skrzypczak’s position “was not limited to a merely administrative role, but it also involved responsibilities that furthered the core of the spiritual mission of the Diocese.”
     The Denver-based appellate panel ruled that Skrzypczak, who is not ordained, functioned essentially as a minister would in the administration of church affairs.
     Skrzypzak had argued that even if her employment claims fell under the ministerial exception, her allegations of a hostile work environment and Equal Pay Act violations should be allowed to proceed because they do not involve a protected employment decision.
     But the panel decided that Skrzypczak’s hostile work environment and equal pay claims are barred because she qualifies as a minister for purposes of the ministerial exception.
     As is its habit, the Supreme Court did not comment on its rejection of Skrzypczak’s petition. Last week, the court applied the ministerial exception to the claims of a fired parochial school teacher.

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