Summer E. Allen

Document Type



Over the past 40 years, the circuit courts have acknowledged a ministerial exception to Title VII and other anti-discrimination laws that gives churches the freedom to determine who serves in ministerial roles as a voice of a church’s faith. In January of 2012, the Supreme Court officially adopted the exception into its jurisprudence. The opinion, however, left many questions unanswered. Mainly, the decision failed to give any guidance to lower courts regarding who is and who is not a minister. This article traces the history of the ministerial exception and the church autonomy doctrine back to the Religion Clauses in which they are grounded to discover the most effective and appropriate manner to determine what defines a “minister.”