The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that religious institutions may hire and fire people from strictly religious jobs as they see fit but could face legal action if an employment contract is involved.
In two decisions handed down Thursday, the justices reinstated lawsuits brought by two former staff members at the Lexington Theological Seminary. In both cases, Chief Justice John D. Minton concluded that the staff members had employment contracts with the school and should be able to pursue litigation over their dismissals.
Minton concluded that without the contracts, the seminary would be allowed to dismiss former professors Laurence H. Kant and Jimmy Kirby under what is known as the "ministerial exception" to labor laws.
The exception allows religious institutions to make employment decisions based on the institution's beliefs.