The recent Supreme Court ruling on ministerial exception potentially legalizes all manner of bad behavior on the part of religious institutions whose understanding of “all God’s children” is narrow, particular, and biased. First, by defining “minister” so broadly, the court allows religious institutions to declare any person who works within it’s doors and/or ministries as on par with the ordained clergy saying that the ministerial exception rule applies to those who have “a role in conveying the church’s message and carrying out its mission.” Although Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. appears to minimize the scope of the ruling by avoiding what he calls “a rigid formula for deciding when an employee qualifies as a minister” and not saying how this exception would apply in other circumstances; this creates an ill-advised slippery slope.
Now while I usually applaud a broad understanding of ministry that involves the work our souls must have regardless of whether we are ordained or lay, when referring to “a minister” I think we should be clear that we are talking about the clergy when we move into the realm of legal rulings and the separation of church and state. Religious institutions are not exempt from practicing discriminatory behavior simply because they are religious and by painting a broad stroke view of ministerial authority and role, this encompassing interpretation by the Court opens the door to encourage silence, complicity, and violence in the name of religious values rather than naming them as the sins they are, however piously they may be practiced.
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