Suing Religious Employers: The Extent of Exemptions in Title VII

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Religious employers are exempt under §§ 702(a) and 703(e)(1), 42 U.S.C.2000e—1(a) and 2000e—2(e)(1), when sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. However questions can still arise when Religious employers undertake actions that would allegedly be problematic under Title VII for non-religious employers. What is the scope of the exemption? What is the definition of religion? What is the definition of a religious employer able to invoke the exemption? 

Additionally, is the exemption waived if the employer is a recipient of federal financial assistance? How does the exemption in Title VII compare with other defenses available to the employer such as the ministerial exception (Church Autonomy Theory), Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the First Amendment’s free-speech and free-exercise clauses? What if the religious employer is sued in a similar claim under a state or municipal human rights act?

Experts Sharon Gustafson, Jennifer Goldstein, and Carl Esbeck will discuss some of these questions in this webinar on the extent of exemptions extended to religious employers under Title VII. 



  • Carl H. Esbeck, R. B. Price Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Missouri
  • Sharon Fast Gustafson, Principal, Sharon Fast Gustafson, Attorney at Law, PLC
  • Jennifer Goldstein, Associate General Counsel, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.