Barry Black and John B. Madden authored an “expert analysis” article for the New York Law Journal discussing several anomalies in which the law treats religious institutions and clergy uniquely, including certain tax exemptions, employment status of clergy and Title VII provisions.
In Important Decision involving intra-congregational disputes, NYS Supreme Court Sides with Nelson Madden Black Client
Fresh off the press: in National Church of God of Brooklyn et al. v. Carrington et al., the New York State Supreme Court, County of Kings, sided with Nelson Madden Black client by prohibiting the church’s terminated pastor from holding himself out to be its pastor and his newly “elected” board from holding itself out to be the church’s board, or from transferring interest in the church’s property or preventing church members from accessing the building.
Who is a Minister . . . Again!
We reported just one week ago on Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day Sch. Inc. applying the SCOTUS ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. E.E.O.C, in concluding that a Hebrew School teacher was included in the “ministerial exception.” Now another major decision comes down, this time from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, finding that a Roman Catholic elementary school principal is with in the ministerial exception. In Fratello v. Archdiocese of N.Y. (July 14, 2017), the Court determined that “although Fratello’s formal title was not inherently religious, the record makes clear that she held herself out as a spiritual leader of the School and performed many important religious functions to advance its Roman Catholic mission. The ministerial exception thus bars her employment-discrimination claims because she was a minister within the meaning of the exception.”
More to come, for sure!
In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. E.E.O.C, 565 U.S. 171, 188, 132 S. Ct. 694, 181 L. Ed. 2d 650 (2012), SCOTUS concretized the Ministerial Exception, which exempts religious institutions from the applicability of federal employment discrimination statutes in the face of First Amendment concerns. The Court broadened the“minister” category to include those whose work is part of the institution’s religious mission, not necessarily involving ordination. The Court did not, however, set forth specific parameters to help determine exactly who is a minister.
A recent decision in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day Sch. Inc., 16-CV-1245-JPS, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82010, helps clarify Hosanna Tabor’s scope. This case, unlike Hosanna Tabor, involved a Hebrew School teacher, not known as a “minister” (ordained or otherwise), but whose functions were so tightly connected to the school’s religious mission as to bring her within Hosanna Tabor’s scope. Other courts will surely follow in helping bring more fact-based clarity to this issue.
NYC Freelance Law Affects Religious Institutions
A new law took effect today in New York City. Designed to protect freelance workers, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act “establishes and enhances protections for freelance workers, specifically the right to: a written contract, timely and full payment, and protection from retaliation.” The statute’s full text is found here. Religious institutions that employ freelancers should be aware of the law’s requirements. Non-employee ministers may be covered by this Act.
Nelson Madden Black partner Jonathan Nelson has been elected President of the Christian Legal Society’s New York City Chapter.
On Tuesday, April 4, 2017 partners Jonathan Nelson and Barry Black participated in a Brooklyn Law School panel entitled Religion, Media & the Law. The event was presented by the school’s Christian Legal Society, Muslim Law Students Association and Jewish Law Students Association, and was moderated by Professor Nelson Tebbe. Other panelists were Akiva Shapiro of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, LLP and Omar T. Mohammedi of the Law Firm of Omar T. Mohammedi.
Nelson Madden Black partner, Jonathan Nelson, recently joined the board of the New York Chapter of the Christian Legal Society. At last Monday’s meeting, we heard an update on Open Hands Legal Services from board member Haejin A. Shim, and shared fellowship over pizza.
Jonathan notes that at the next meeting, tentatively planned for late March, “We will be discussing the concept of ‘sanctuary’ and whether it is reflected in current law.”