The First Amendment protects religious organizations from facing age discrimination lawsuits brought by teachers at religious schools, the state’s highest court ruled Wednesday.
The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed a workplace discrimination claim brought in 2008 by Gaye Hilsenrath against Temple Emanuel in Newton after she lost her part-time job at the Rabbi Albert I. Gordon Religious School.
The court ruled that the synagogue’s hiring decisions were protected under “ministerial exceptions’’ to antidiscrimination laws.
Hilsenrath “taught religious subjects at a school that functioned solely as a religious school,” Justice Ralph Gants wrote for the unanimous court.
“Where a school’s sole mission is to serve as a religious school, the state should not intrude on a religious group’s decision as to who should [and should not] teach its religion to the children of its members,” he wrote.
Hilsenrath, 54, worked at Temple Emanuel for 24 years. She said she was replaced with a 21-year-old.
“Essentially, I was told I lacked the breadth, depth, and experience to creatively engage the classroom,” she said Wednesday. “They told me to keep it [the reasons] confidential.”
Hilsenrath believes the committee was established to eliminate older teachers.
She was 49 at the time she was let go.
Temple Emanuel could not be reached for comment.