Sunday, September 24, 2023
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Priest-in-Training Loses Bid for Overtime Pay

(CN) - The 9th Circuit dismissed a Catholic seminary student's bid for overtime pay, citing laws that "preserve the wall between church and state" from "even mundane government intrusion."

The Constitution's religion clauses require a "ministerial exception" to employment laws that could interfere with a religious institution's employment decisions concerning ministers.

The Seattle-based appellate panel held that this ministerial exception applies to Washington's Minimum Wage Act and dismissed Cesar Rosas' claim for overtime pay.

Rosas had participated in a training program at the St. Mary Catholic Church in Marysville, Wash., on his path to becoming an ordained priest.

He and fellow seminarian Jesus Alcazar claimed they were retaliated against for accusing Father Horatio Yanez of sexually harassing Alcazar. They eventually sued Yanez and the Corporation of the Catholic Archbishop of Seattle under Title VII, and sued the church separately for its alleged failure to pay overtime wages.

The district court dismissed the wage claims, and only Rosas appealed. The 9th Circuit cited the ministerial exception in upholding the lower court's dismissal.

"[R]equiring the Catholic Church to pay overtime wages to Rosas would interfere with the Church's employment decisions regarding its minister," Judge Robert Beezer wrote. "Rosas's claim is thus barred by the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."

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