Gay Teacher Terminated For Blog Post on Same-Sex Relationship

A part-time professor at a Catholic college in Philadelphia was terminated Feb. 18 when the college discovered a posting on his blog discussing his involvement in a same-sex relationship for 15 years.
 
The Rev. James St. George was terminated after he made “public statements of his involvement in a gay relationship with another man for the past 15 years,” a statement from Chestnut Hill College said.
 
The college hired St. George in 2009 to teach Bible studies and other subjects; starting on March 1, he was to teach courses in theology and justice as well as world religions.
 
St. George apparently belongs to a branch of Catholicism that vows no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and performs commitment ceremonies for gays.
 
If the professor decided to challenge his firing under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he might run up against two exceptions to the law’s ban on religious discrimination: (1) the exception that allows religious institutions to discriminate in hiring and firnig decisions in favor of persons who hold religious views consistent with the employer’s mission, and (2) the “ministerial” exception.
 
Here’s an excerpt from Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on the first exception:
 
“Under Title VII, religious organizations are permitted to give employment preference to members of their own religion. The exception applies only to those institutions whose “purpose and character are primarily religious. Factors to consider that would indicate whether an entity is religious include: whether its articles of incorporation state a religious purpose; whether its day-to-day operations are religious (e.g., are the services the entity performs, the product it produces, or the educational curriculum it provides directed toward propagation of the religion?); whether it is not-for-profit; and whether it affiliated with, or supported by, a church or other religious organization.”
 
Courts also recognize a “ministerial exception” to Title VII based on “the First Amendment principle that governmental regulation of church administration, including the appointment of clergy, impedes the free exercise of religion and constitutes impermissible government entanglement with church authority.”
 
As the guidelines make clear, however, “the exception applies only to employees who perform essentially religious functions, namely those whose primary duties consist of engaging in church governance, supervising a religious order, or conducting religious ritual, worship, or instruction.”

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