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Court's Dismissal of Teacher's Discrimination Case Reflects Hosanna-Tabor

Influence of landmark Supreme Court decision continues to spread.

An Illinois federal district court relied on the ministerial exception – given national attention by last year's U.S. Supreme Court Hosanna-Tabor ruling – in deciding that a former Lutheran school teacher could not sue for discrimination after being terminated.

Janet Herzog filed a lawsuit against St. Peter Lutheran Church, which owns a Lutheran elementary school, claiming her employment was terminated based on age, sex, and marital status. The church claims Herzong was let go because of "budgetary reasons."

The court ruled that although Herzog primarily taught secular subjects, she still legally qualifies as a "minister" because she taught religious classes and became a "called teacher."

The ministerial exception has drawn attention since the Supreme Court unanimously upheld it last year, ruling that a former school teacher could not sue Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some legal scholars called the case the most significant religious freedom case in 20 years.

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