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Ministers of Religion and Unfair Dismissal

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The Court of Appeal has upheld the Employment Appeal Tribunal's decision in New Testament Church of God v Rev. Sylvester Stewart, which held that a Christian minister was an employee of his church.

Whilst making it clear that he was not laying down a rule of law that all ministers of religion will be employees, Pill LJ analysed the changes in the common law in recent years and held that there was no legal presumption against a minister being an employee.

All three judges considered, however, that the existence of religious dogma which was opposed to the existence of a contract of employment would be an important factor pointing away from the existence of a contract. Indeed, by a majority, the Court considered that to impose a contract upon a church which was doctrinally opposed to it would be a breach of Article 9 of the ECHR (freedom of religion).