In a large church, the music ministry might be led by a “minister of music.”  Such a leader might have a staff that includes choir directors tasked with creating and leading certain types of choirs for various events and services.  In some churches, the “choir director” may still have that title but in actuality be the minister of music, or the minister of music in certain situations.  In all churches, it is unlikely to find a choir director without significant duties in worship services as well as related events.

In Martin v SS Columbia Brigid Catholic Church, Order on Motions to Dismiss (WD NY 2022), the federal trial court dismissed the federal employment law and state law case of a choir director.  The church moved for dismissal based on the Ministerial Exception to federal employment laws and state law claims.  The Plaintiff alleged the title “choir director” was not a ministerial position.  However, the Plaintiff acknowledged she would be “perceived as a religious leader” because her duties encompassed a “significant religious dimension” that appeared to be her “primary function.”

This Court did not review employee handbooks or any contractual documents because the case was at the pleading stage at which a motion to dismiss became the vehicle for dismissal.  The Court’s opinion was based solely on the allegations in the complaint filed by the Plaintiff which the Court had to treat as true as long as the allegations were plausible.

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