Update: On May 8, 2024, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in Billard v. Charlotte Catholic High School. The court reversed the decision below, holding that Lonnie Billard, a drama and English teacher, could be considered a minister. First the court relieved the school of their prior waiver of the ministerial exception. The court did not rule that the exception is categorically non-waivable, rather that it is such an important “structural” doctrine in preventing courts from overstepping their role regarding religious employment that it should apply it despite the school’s prior waiver. Then, applying the test articulated in Our Lady of Guadalupe v. Morrissey-Berru, the court held that because the school entrusted Mr. Billard with “vital religious duties” and made him a “messenger of its faith,” he fell within the ministerial exception. The opinion does not, however, adopt the sweeping view of the ministerial exception articulated by the school. That position would have deprived all employees at religious institutions from any protections against discrimination under Title VII.


On November 30, 2022, the National Women’s Law Center, along with our pro bono partner Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and 47 additional organizations committed to gender justice, filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Billard v. Charlotte Catholic High School. The case was brought by Lonnie Billard, a former drama, English, and substitute teacher at Charlotte Catholic High School who was fired after he posted about his wedding on Facebook. Our amicus brief in support of Mr. Billard explained to the court that Title VII’s limited exceptions for religious employers cannot be manipulated to allow employers to engage in wholesale discrimination based on sex, including sexual orientation or gender identity. We detailed the harms that would result if the school’s arguments were accepted, thereby severely limiting the protection of workplace civil rights laws. For more background on the case, please read our blog.