Church Law v. Common Law provides a description of an interesting development in a case of wrongful dismissal at a Catholic university in the US. Tom Monoghan, the founder and guiding light of the ABA-certified Ave Maria School of Law contends that its professors are “ministerial”, and therefore subject only to canon law. Further, this qualifies the school for an “ecclesiastical abstention” from scrutiny by the courts. There are some good quotes from Deborah Gorden, the lawyer representing the three professors who were fired:

Gordon is aghast at the theory that Catholic law school professors are ministers. “Are you people kidding or what,” Gordon said, baffled by Monoghan’s theory.

and from ‘court documents’ she filed:

The pending motion takes a position so untenable it is difficult to absorb on one reading. … In fact … Monighan testified that AMSL was always intended to be ‘independent’ of Church governance. And Dean Bernard Dobranski has publicly stated that AMSL is ‘not a seminary. We’re a law school. … [W]e never lose sight of the fact that our primary responsibility is to train people to be good lawyers.’

This one may not have the Sun King exactly rolling in his grave. Still, you never know what the outcome might be. This might be a case to watch if you are considering setting up a new law school in Canada. I was thinking about running one out of my basement, but if I actually have to maintain standards and pay people, well…


  1. I really hope for the law school’s sake that they can come up with a better legal argument than that. What a dud.

    At least this case isn’t being litigated in an English court where the even the clergy may be entitled to the same employment rights as secular church employees.