Academic journal article Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues

The Gender Pay Gap in the United Methodist Church

Academic journal article Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues

The Gender Pay Gap in the United Methodist Church

Article excerpt

Leviticus 27: 3-4

Set the value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel; for a female, set her value at thirty shekels (New International Version)


On January 11th, 2012 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that employment discrimination laws do not protect church ministers. In the case, the court ruled that the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," ensured that the Federal government would have no role in filling ecclesiastical offices. Moreover, they stated in an opinion written by Chief Justice, John Roberts, that "since the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other employment discrimination laws, the Courts of Appeals have uniformly recognized the existence of a "ministerial exception," grounded in the First Amendment, that precludes application of such legislation to claims concerning the employment relationship between a religious institution and its ministers."

Although ministers are not subject to discrimination laws, it is not know to what extent ministers may be the subject of discrimination, as defined by labor economics. Using a data set of over 700 churches in the United Methodist Church (UMC) this research note examines the extent to which female pastors may be paid less than their male counterparts. At least in this study there is no evidence that female pastors are paid less than male pastors. The note is set out as follows: the next section introduces the topic within the context of the Supreme Court ruling. The next section summarizes the literature. The following sections describe the data and results of the analysis. The final section provides a conclusion including policy implications and some suggestions for future research.


The Supreme Court case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al, (2012) concerned a woman, Cheryl Perich, who worked as a called teacher at the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School. A called teacher is regarded as having been called to their profession by God (as opposed to lay teachers). Called teachers have to have had some theological training and receive the title of "Minister of Religion, Commissioned" once called. Perich developed narcolepsy and took disability leave in 2004. Informing the school of her desire to return to work in February 2005 she was told a lay teacher had been hired in her stead for the remainder of the school year. Following some confrontation the school terminated her contract citing "insubordination and disruptive behavior." The Supreme Court ruled that "because Perich was a minister within the meaning of ministerial exception, the First Amendment requires dismissal of this employment discrimination suit against her religious employer."

Employment discrimination can manifest itself in many ways (Hyclak, Johnes, and Thornton, 2013):

* At the hiring stage, employers may prefer not to hire persons of a particular group.

* Employers may not promote members of a certain group.

* Employers may pay lower wages to persons in a particular group even though they are equally qualified as other workers.

* Consumers may prefer to be served by a certain group.

* Fellow employees may prefer to work with certain groups.

These groups may be based on any characteristic not related to job performance such as gender, race, ethnic group, age, etc. This analysis concentrates on the third type of employment discrimination and asks whether female ministers in the UMC earn lower wages than equally qualified male pastors.


Previous studies have analyzed gender employment discrimination in all of the above categories but with mixed results. Neumark, Bank, and Van Nort (1996) found that females applying for jobs at high end restaurants had a probability of receiving a job offer that was about 0. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.