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Judge Rules in Favor of Church Group in NY Breach of Contract Action

Posted on Jan 01, 2016

In late January, a New York judge dismissed a breach of contract lawsuit brought by an ordained minister against a charge agency. The judge held that it was unconstitutional for the court to become involved in the relationship between the parties because it involved a religious institution. The minister, Rev. Douglas Mills, sued for breach of contract following his firing.

The judge in the case, Justice Charles Ramos of New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, pointed to the First Amendment’s ministerial exception when dismissing the case. He noted that under the ministerial exception, religious institutions enjoy protection from certain laws. This is true even if the employee in question was performing secular duties.

Rev. Mills was hired by the Standing General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Conferences in 2005. His official job title was “Associate General Secretary,” and his responsibilities included promoting “theological dialogue and interfaith relations.” In 2009, Rev. Mills was fired. The reasons noted for terminating the relationship included insubordination and untrustworthiness.

Judge Ramos stated that the ministerial exception applies, provided Rev. Mills’ job duties “reflected a role in conveying the church’s message and carrying out its mission.” Judge Ramos cited a 2012 case in which the exception was used in an employment discrimination matter. That case involved a teacher at a Lutheran church who was fired and later brought a claim for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

To learn more about bringing a breach of contract or other business litigation matter, contact a New York breach of contract attorney today at (888) 497-3410.

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