Gordon College seeks Supreme Court review of SJC ruling

·2 min read

Jun. 1—WENHAM — Lawyers for Gordon College in Wenham told a judge last week they are considering a request to the United States Supreme Court to hear their claim that professors at the Christian school are not protected by employment discrimination laws.

The move comes after settlement talks between former associate professor Margaret DeWeese-Boyd and the school failed to produce an agreement in the four-year-old discrimination case.

DeWeese-Boyd alleges in her 2017 lawsuit that she was turned down for a full professorship because of her outspoken criticism of then-president Michael Lindsay's decision to sign a letter asking that Christian schools be exempt from federal rules prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.

Her position was later eliminated.

The college moved to dismiss her lawsuit on the grounds that as a teacher at a Christian school, DeWeese-Boyd was, in effect, a minister — and that under the First Amendment, the government cannot interfere in the relationship between a minister and the religious organization he or she represents.

The school's attorneys pointed to recent Supreme Court decisions that found in favor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles in cases brought by parochial school teachers. But a Salem Superior Court judge found that DeWeese-Boyd did not perform the types of duties that a minister or rabbi would perform, and concluded that she was protected by employment discrimination laws.

In March, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court agreed, upholding the ruling and allowing the case to move forward.

In a court filing on Wednesday and during a hearing Thursday in Lawrence Superior Court, lawyers said they are planning to ask the Supreme Court to review the SJC's decision.

That process, known as a writ of certiorari, is far from guaranteed. According to the court, it receives 7,000 to 8,000 requests for review of lower court rulings every year, of which about 80 are granted.

During Thursday's brief hearing before Lawrence Superior Court Judge Salim Tabit, a lawyer for the school said a final decision will be made as to whether to pursue the claim within the next two weeks. They would have to file the request by Aug. 2, and the process of filing such a request is complex.

They asked Tabit to amend the case's schedule to allow for additional time to start the process of exchanging evidence in the case.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, jmanganis@gloucestertimes.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting