The Massachusetts Appeals Court today dismissed a woman's suit against the Archdiocese of Boston for the way she was fired as director of musical ministries at a Franklin church without even considering her claim that the new parish priest didn't like either her age or gender.
In its ruling the court said the First Amendment contains a "ministerial exemption" that lets religious organizations fire anybody who has any say in the organization's religious mission.
In this case, the court ruled, Alessandrinia Menard had such a say because her job involved selecting music for religious services at St. Mary's Parish - which it determined in part based on a parish-newsletter article which she wrote - and which the Archdiocese submitted as evidence that she fell under the "ministerial exemption:"
In it, she explained that "[m]usic choices for [Mass] Liturgies are carefully and prayerfully chosen to correspond with the readings from the Lectionary and the prayers from the Roman Missal." Menard wrote that the "goal" of these choices "is to form reinforcement of the Holy Scriptures so that we may better understand them, and to encourage full and active participation of the assembly."
Among the cases the court sited was a 2012 Supreme Judicial Court decision that upheld a Newton temple's right to dismiss a Hebrew-school teacher, who also charged age discrimination.