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Ministerial Exception

Ministerial Exception

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Published by employmentlawyer
Court adopts ministerial exception to employment claims in Connecticut.
Court adopts ministerial exception to employment claims in Connecticut.

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Published by: employmentlawyer on Jul 25, 2011
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05/25/2012

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******************************************************The ‘‘officially released’’ date that appears near thebeginning of each opinion is the date the opinion willbe published in the Connecticut Law Journal or thedate it was released as a slip opinion. The operativedate for the beginning of all time periods for filingpostopinion motions and petitions for certification isthe ‘‘officially released’’ date appearing in the opinion.In no event will any such motions be accepted beforethe ‘‘officially released’’ date. Allopinionsaresubjecttomodificationandtechnicalcorrection prior to official publication in the Connecti-cut Reports and Connecticut Appellate Reports. In theevent of discrepancies between the electronic versionof an opinion and the print version appearing in theConnecticut Law Journal and subsequently in the Con-necticut Reports or Connecticut Appellate Reports, thelatest print version is to be considered authoritative.The syllabus and procedural history accompanyingthe opinion as it appears on the Commission on OfficialLegal Publications Electronic Bulletin Board ServiceandintheConnecticutLawJournalandboundvolumesof official reports are copyrighted by the Secretary of the State, State of Connecticut, and may not be repro-duced and distributed without the express written per-mission of the Commission on Official LegalPublications, Judicial Branch, State of Connecticut.******************************************************
 
PATRICIA DAYNER
v
. ARCHDIOCESE OFHARTFORD ET AL.(SC 18468)
Rogers, C. J., and Norcott, Palmer, McLachlan, Eveleigh and Vertefeuille, Js.
 Argued March 16—officially released August 2, 2011
 LorindaS.Coon
,withwhom,onthebrief,was
 JeffreyC. Pingpank
, for the appellants (defendants).
 Henry F. Murray
, with whom, on the brief, was
 Nicole M. Rothgeb
, for the appellee (plaintiff).
 
Opinion
NORCOTT, J. This appeal requires us to consider thecontours of the ministerial exception, under the firstamendment to the United States constitution,
1
to Con-necticut courts’ subject matter jurisdiction over certainemployment related claims brought against religiousinstitutions. The plaintiff, Patricia Dayner, brought thisaction against the defendants, the Archdiocese of Hart-ford (archdiocese) and Father Stephen Bzdyra, pastorof Saint Hedwig’s Parish in Naugatuck, claiming thattheir refusal to renew her contract for employment asthe principal of Saint Hedwig’s School (school) consti-tuted, inter alia, wrongful termination in violation of  public policy, breach of implied contract and breachof promissory estoppel. The defendants appeal
2
fromthe decision of the trial court denying their motion todismiss the action on the ground that adjudication of the plaintiff’s claims calls for impermissible judicialinterference in the internal governance of the archdio-cese with respect to its selection of religious leaders. After determining that we have subject matter jurisdic-tion over this interlocutory appeal pursuant to
State
v.
Curcio
,191Conn.27,31,463A.2d566(1983),wefurtherconclude that, in considering whether the ministerialexception is applicable in a particular case, a Connecti-cut state court must follow the standard articulated bythe United States Court of Appeals for the Second Cir-cuit in
Rweyemamu
v.
Cote
, 520 F.3d 198, 208–209 (2dCir. 2008), and consider whether: (1) the employmentrelationship is religious in nature; and (2) if so, whetheradjudicating the particular claims and defenses in thecase would require the court to intrude into a religiousinstitution’sexclusiverighttodecidematterspertainingto doctrine or its internal governance or organization.Having applied this standard to the various claims inthe plaintiff’s complaint, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case with direction torender judgment dismissing the complaint in itsentirety.The record reveals the following facts, as set forthin the complaint, and procedural history. The plaintiff was employed by the archdiocese since 1975 as ateacher and Catholic school administrator; she servedas principal of the school from 1988 until 2005. In the plaintiff’s last comprehensive performance evaluation,
3
dated June 24, 2004, which reviewed the 2003–2004school year, Sister Loretta Francis Mann, who wasemployed as assistant superintendent of elementaryschool education at the archdiocese, gave the plaintiff a positive review, along with some written ‘‘recommen-dations’’ regarding specific areas of improvement. In July, 2004, the plaintiff accepted from Bzdyra, who as parish pastor was the plaintiff’s supervisor, a signedcontract of employment as principal for the 2004–2005school year. On August 9, 2004, the plaintiff attended

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