Today's Top Five

1. "Ministerial exception" interpretation narrowed
Lynette Petruska, a chaplain at the Roman Catholic Gannon University in Erie, Pa., says she was forced out of her job because she was a woman and because she objected to sexual harassment at the school. In 2004, a federal judge threw out her case because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the First Amendment give great leeway to religious institutions in hiring practices. Repeated court rulings have stayed out of similar employment cases because of what is known as the "ministerial exception."

Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit offered a "a carefully tailored version of the ministerial exception." When the employment issue is "religious belief, religious doctrine, or the internal regulations of a church," then courts have no business entering into the dispute, the judges ruled. But when the dispute is unconnected to those issues, employment discrimination "is simply the exercise of intolerance, not the free exercise of religion that the Constitution protects." The ruling explains further:

When a religious organization fires or demotes a woman on the basis of sex, it may be acting according to religious belief, religious doctrine, or church regulation (consider, for example, the Catholic Church's prohibition of female priests). In such a case, the religious organization would be immune from  a Title VII suit. But a religious institution might also fire a woman because the individuals making the decision are, simply put, sexist. Religious doctrine and internal church regulation play no role in such a decision.

The buzz so far is that since this decision is at odds with other circuit court decisions, it could go to the Supreme ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's editorial director. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
Previous Weblog Columns: