Fred asks the questions that lower courts are going to be figuring out for years to come: Who’s a minister? And what’s a church?
Say you’re the owner of a pizza place and you’re looking to hire a new delivery driver. You can’t put up a sign that says, “Jews Need Not Apply.” And you can’t put up a sign that says, “Only Jews Need Apply.” Either one would be an illegal form of religious discrimination. But say you’re on the board of a Conservative Jewish congregation and you’re looking to hire a new rabbi. In that case, the essential nature of the job requires that you hire someone who is Jewish — and whose particular religious values are in accord with those of your congregation. Presbyterians need not apply. Hindus need not apply. Orthodox and Reformed Jews need not apply.
That’s the “ministerial exception” at work. It’s not illegal — workplace laws forbidding religious discrimination do not apply.