Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

This Day in Liberal Judicial Activism—December 17

2018—In Biel v. St. James School, a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit rules that a fifth-grade teacher at a Catholic school who was charged with teaching Catholic doctrine to her students, praying with them twice daily, and taking them to Mass did not trigger the ministerial exception to generally applicable employment laws (and thus could pursue her claim that she was fired in violation of the American with Disabilities Act).

In their dissent six months later from the Ninth Circuit’s denial of rehearing en banc in the case, nine judges will fault the panel majority for adopting the “narrowest construction” of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the ministerial exception in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC (2012) and for “split[ting] from the consensus of our sister circuits that the employer’s ministerial function should be the key focus.”


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