While the District Court correctly held that the ministerial exception shields the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Inc. and Roncalli High School, Inc. from liability for Lynn Starkey’s claims, the First Amendment doctrine of expressive association provides this Court with an alternative ground to affirm.
Courts evaluate whether the doctrine of expressive association applies by considering three questions: (1) Is the organization an expressive association? (2) If so, does the forced inclusion of an individual in the expressive association significantly burden its expression, deferring to the association’s own view of what would impair its expression? (3) If so, can the government’s action survive strict scrutiny? The answer to each of these questions here supports application of the doctrine and affirmance of the lower court’s judgment.
As to the first question, Roncalli and the Archdiocese—a private religious school and ecclesiastical district of the Roman Catholic Church, respectively—are, by nature and purpose, expressive. As to the second question, any governmental action that forces Roncalli and the Archdiocese to employ Ms. Starkey, whose beliefs and behaviors she admits diverge starkly from Catholic teaching and doctrine, would significantly burden and undermine the message Roncalli and the Archdiocese convey. And as to the third, no compelling governmental interest outweighs the expressive association interests of Roncalli and the Archdiocese. Thus, each step of the analysis favors Roncalli and the Archdiocese and supports affirming the District Court’s judgment.